The New Health Age
Paging Dr. Future
By Steven Martinovich
While health care hasn't been the primary issue of the 2012 election season so far, one should certainly expect that whoever emerges out of the GOP horserace will likely make it one when they face Barack Obama. Given the nature of elections, however, it's hard to believe that either Obama or the Republican candidate offers any serious plans on how to move the American health care system out of its 18th century roots and into a more efficient future. Regardless of your stance on how health care should be funded, few probably believe the system works as well as it could.
Into the debate wade futurist David Houle and health care attorney Jonathan Fleece with The New Health Age: The Future of Health Care in America, a demand and plan for the modernization of the American health care system. Theirs is an ambitious agenda which would uproot the current system and replace it with a modern version that demands accountability from all, delivers services efficiently, pushes prevention instead of cure and is universal, among other requirements. It is what one could call a tall order but Houle and Fleece argue it's doable if we decide it is.
The New Health Age asks its readers to commit to a huge paradigm shift. Houle and Fleece believe that much of America's problems with its health care system can be traced to how Americans think about it. We are conditioned to think in terms of sickness, treatment, and reactive behavior instead of wellness, prevention, proactive behavior, creating incentives in the system to maintain the status quo. They argue that shifting thinking by patients, doctors, insurance companies, government and other stakeholders on a number of issues would bring to the fore new health care structures that already exist – mostly in private health care – that would force the system to alter its approach.
Of course, thinking isn't enough to revolutionize a system whose basic structure has been unchanged for centuries. Houle and Fleece believe that the information technology that has transformed the rest of the economy is badly needed in health care – unless your doctor isn't still scrawling notes into a file folder. They also push for a wide array of societal changes that can't adequately be enumerated in a review but they encompass everything from healthier eating habits, community gardens, lifestyle medicine, more recreational facilities and incentives for medical innovation, among many others.
One can hardly disagree with Houle and Fleece's call for modernization. A little thing like being able to electronically book an appointment to have my oil changed but being forced to repeatedly call and after several attempts am finally told when my appointment will be says much. Where many will have problems, however, are Houle and Fleece's inherent acceptance of big government – whether or not they maintain they aren't trying to convince the reader that Obamacare is good or bad. They're determined to have a healthier American population and if that means more federal government programs, taxes on less healthy food and "incentives" for health care delivery to change, so be it.
It's a weakness of The New Health Age but it doesn't mean that it's crippling. There is still much to recommend about the effort, including the calls for increased modernization, efficiency, accountability and forward thinking. It's clear that the debate over who pays for health care is overshadowing other just as important and linked issues. Unfortunately the space where such issues are generally examined will be ignored in favour of media-driven debates that make for far sexier television watching.
Steven Martinovich is the founder and editor in chief of Enter Stage Right.
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