Forbes: We all know health care costs are a serious problem and most of us feel powerless to do anything about it. In this country, there is a perception that more health care means better health, and this is simply not the case. A recent article in Health Affairs by Roseanna Sommers, et al., beautifully outlines four challenges of involving patients in health care cost decisions. The study involved questioning twenty-two focus groups, and although the study is not scientific, it is very insightful and disheartening, with a good dose of appropriately optimistic solutions thrown in at the end. In this article, I share the results and of course provide my two-cents.
Solution #1: The palliative care movement
Decades of research have identified strategies to improve end-of-life care. Continued media exposure has significantly improved the conversation about this expected life event. Better end-of-life education and care reduce costs, and there has been a decline in hospital deaths in the elderly and improved use of hospice services. This snowball has been decades in the making, and is approaching avalanche proportions. The Conversation Project and National Health Care Decision Day are programs dedicated to raising awareness and improving communication around the end of life. The Coalition to Transform Advanced Care is working on a curriculum to educate patients about financial issues around the end of life (full disclosure – I am working with them on this project.) Eventually, patients will get the education and care they need at the end of life, instead of the unnecessary and misguided treatments they currently face. This has significant promise in reducing future health care costs.