Medical Stargazing

What’s in store for us in medicine this year? A lot. Possibly more than we can imagine as the most dramatic overhaul in the history of American medicine begins in earnest. Of course, you know about the “fiscal cliff;” but the “health care Himalaya” is a phenomenon of equal or greater impact in 2013.

What Will Change

  • The face of medicine in the U.S. The bulk of President Obama’s 2010 plan to overhaul American medicine will roll out this year. Thirty million currently uninsured Americans will gain health care coverage. Across the board Medicare cuts also loom large. Not sure how to handle the change? Well, first realize you are not alone. My take from doctor-dedicated websites such as Doximity.com is that providers are just as concerned as patients about what’s in store for them this year. The best medicine here might be a generous dose of tolerance as doctors and patients work together to implement change.
  • Medicine’s unpredictability. Adding millions of patients to the health care system is all good but will certainly affect how care is delivered. Without an equally robust infusion of new providers or new clinics, we must work hard to avoid the doctor-coined “coverage without care” syndrome best exemplified by the current overuse of our nation’s emergency rooms as primary care clinics.
  • Patient self-empowerment. In the past, you may have found social media interesting, but maybe not all that useful in your daily life. However, this year social media will shine, as it enables patients to research their medical issues with high informational accuracy. This year will mark the beginning the of hey day of the truly informed health care consumer. Social media will also become great for doctors to stay informed, communicate, and debate (link to ASRM blog on social media) as medicine charts a new course.

What Won’t Change

  • The medical issues that men face. Lifestyle-related diseases and conditions tied to an aging population aren’t going away anytime soon. These need to be addressed as preventatively as possible.
  • Increased consumerism. The demand by patients for quality and safe medical care is reasonable and justified. Indeed, this is what the educated and empowered consumer expects and deserves. Surely, the call for timely, responsive and personalized care is not far behind.
  • Information is not knowledge. The internet is information-rich, but knowledge-poor. As such, despite the view of some, it will never replace old-fashioned wisdom forged from a career of experience held by a doctor. The need for sage medical advice will continue as far as the eye can see.
  • The way to handle uncertainty. In the tumultuous medical times ahead, take charge of your health as much as possible. Learn about it, own it and control it as best you can. Remember, your health is your single most important asset in life. Eat well, sleep well, reduce your stress, stand more, and take all things in moderation. Treat your body like the temple it is. And, if you still have nowhere to turn, then call me!