Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Consumers Taking Control of Their Health

Cecilia Arradaza, Communications Director, FasterCures

More and more patients are managing their own health, making decisions based on the advice of their healthcare provider and on information garnered from a wide variety of sources – news articles, social networks, and blogs, said an expert panel at the Milken Institute Global Conference. The panel examined what influences these decisions – personal responsibility, workplace programs, and cost implications.

Heyward Donigan of ValueOptions said the “gig is up.” There’s a cultural journey toward health that makes it “hard to hide from the need to be accountable for your own decisions.” She noted that employers need to partner with consumers and facilitate decisions that will ultimately pay in dividends in terms of better health and greater productivity.

Richard Merkin of the Heritage Provider Network emphasized that “more care is not always better care,” and that access to technology and tools alone is not the answer to improving health outcomes. He said that in fact, “technology can sometimes exacerbate the problem if not matched with the comprehensive cognitive skills of an experienced healthcare provider, and accountability from the healthcare organization.”

The panel overwhelmingly agreed on the need to curb the sky-rocketing costs of healthcare delivery, noting that hospitalization is the largest slice of the healthcare spending pie and the system, as we have it, and should have more incentives in place to be able to provide the right care to the right patient at the right cost.

Paul Kusserow of Humana said that “when healthcare becomes episodic, it gets very expensive and unsustainable, but when it’s a dialogue, a continuum, we can start managing costs.”

Donigan noted successful returns in workplace programs that encourage wellness and healthy behavior in the workplace and early management of chronic diseases and that “healthcare costs can be cut without shifting it to consumers.”

Given the right options and information, American consumers will make the right decisions, the panel concurred. This includes sorting through massive amounts of information shared in social networking sites and real-time news coverage and analysis.

Jim Glasheen of Technology Partners moderated the discussion.

Watch a video of the session.

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