Saturday, 2 February 2013

Healthcare Scenarios and Affordability

It is a generally accepted fact that health care costs have been rising for several years and that these costs greatly affect American families.  Interestingly US Census Bureau records show that on an inflation adjusted basis, the mean household income has stayed relatively stagnant for over a decade.  With rising health care costs, this has left families even more strained to manage the rest of their other increasing expenses with the same relative level of income.  If you look at the spending on health care by a family, it becomes quite apparent how big an impact expenses like health insurance premiums, out-of-pocket expenses, federal and state taxes for government health care programs etc., can have on a family’s income.  Stagnant incomes and rising health care costs have complicated the healthcare system.  In the United States, it is one of the most complex and ever changing issues facing the country, which necessitates a better and more efficient method of management. 


Healthcare Elements

Implementing any new improvements is not an easy job as the system is made up of numerous basic service elements or components which affect everybody from parents who wonder about the healthcare of their children, to policy makers and the government who deal with funding and the allocating of scarce resources.   
Each service component in turn is affected by numerous other factors like finance, culture, geography, and other influences that assist in determining the availability and effectiveness of those services.  What is more, the healthcare system itself ranges from care for simple uncomplicated issues like a cold and cough that require relatively low levels of technology, personnel and facilities, such as urgent care centers or walk in clinics, to emergency rooms in hospitals which have specialized personnel equipped to handle complex and serious issues. 


Micro Healthcare Components

The basic service components of the health care system are made up of elements like; health advancement and disease prevention services, emergency medical services, ambulatory care for simple or complex conditions, ambulatory care for complex continuing conditions, inpatient care for limited or long term care, services for social and psychological conditions, rehabilitation services and pharmaceutical services etc.  These are the healthcare services available to the general public and they must choose which service will best suit their needs and provide them the best treatment. 


Factors that influence

Several factors influence the decision on which facility a patient should go to for treatment.  Some depend on their own personal intuition and belief.  Others may select a hospital or urgent care center taking into account their previous experiences and current circumstances.  Rising out of pocket costs can force people to choose a particular healthcare service which accepts their form of insurance.  When trying to evaluate individual healthcare providers, patients may look at incentives being offered and consider any referrals.  In the overall healthcare system, there are also contractual arrangements and legal considerations to take into account.  One of the biggest factors that will continue to become a greater problem in the future is the influx of patients in emergency rooms and primary health centers, causing even greater strain on an already stretched system.


Interdependency in the Healthcare System

If you look deep into the workings of the entire healthcare system, you will find that no one system or area works alone; in fact, they depend and assist each other to provide treatment to patients.  While patients depend on the healthcare providers for their care, the providers depend on systems for managing payments and health records.  It is evident that a doctor alone is not sufficient for a patient to get the care they need; the support systems for the doctor must also be in place.  These support systems are a critical piece of our health care system and require the appropriate personnel and technology in order to ensure they function smoothly.


Urgent Care Centers – the best alternative

In healthcare reform there is a constant debate about how to save money.  With the dramatic rise in the number of people needing care, we need more funding to cover hospital costs.  As individuals and families, we need to carefully take into consideration the severity and urgency of the disease and decide whether to go to an emergency room, which are meant for serious and life threatening conditions but cost more, or to go to one of the thousands of urgent care centers, which are best suited for minor but urgent issues and cost less.  For a minor ailment like a cold or cough, there is no point going to emergency rooms which are overcrowded and wasting the scarce resources meant for treating serious and life-threatening diseases.  The cost of treatment in urgent care centers is significantly less and therefore more affordable so that even an uninsured patient can find the expenses to be reasonable.   Urgent care centers are also conveniently located and they typically operate beyond normal business hours so that a busy professional can save time and money when they need to seek care.  Unlike emergency rooms in the hospitals, patient scan visit an urgent care center for treatment at their own convenience as they do not need a prior appointment.  Taking into account all of these factors urgent care centers represent an increasingly attractive alternative in the present health care environment.

No comments:

Post a Comment