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Improving healthcare will require gutsy changes

By Jim Carroll

Jim CarrollThe primary challenge facing the healthcare system today is obvious: we’re seeing an increase in demand for care due to an aging population, but at the same time there’s a decline in funding. In short, we have to do more with less. We need to figure out ways to do things differently, because right now there’s an “expectation gap” between the levels of quality and value we expect versus what the system can actually provide.

That’s why innovation is critical, and why I believe there will be substantial changes in the concept of healthcare delivery in the near future. If we know that all we may ever have to spend is what we’re spending now – or possibly even less – our job is to figure out ways to reduce costs and become more efficient.

We can start by changing the discussion. If you ask anyone in Canada what their biggest concern is when it comes to healthcare, chances are very good that they’re going to say the same thing: wait times.

We’re all so concerned about how long we have to wait to get in to see a specialist, or how many hours we’ll have to sit in the ER before being checked out by a doctor. While these are certainly valid concerns, it’s not the only thing we should be talking about.

We should be talking about preventative, diagnostic genomic-based medicine. We should be talking about treating patients for the conditions we know they are likely to develop, and re-architecting the system around that reality.

Right now there are so many ways the average Canadian can be proactive about their health. There are in-home blood pressure monitors and blood glucose monitors, body scales that measure BMI as well as weight, and heart rate monitors you can wear on your wrist.

These types of devices – and all the rest of the medical-based technology still in development – can help us change the very concept of “hospital”, turning it into something completely new. This new system would provide for virtual care through bio-connectivity, extending the hospital into a community-care oriented structure.

As patients, we have a better understanding of our own health than ever before. We have access to medical advice and information via the Internet, and we have devices that can help us track and monitor our health and well-being. Change is happening very quickly, and the system needs to catch up.

But it takes guts. It means challenging the status quo and talking about the bigger opportunities we have to transition our current system into one that focuses on preventative medicine – a transformative change that can be made by seizing the opportunity to innovate.

Jim Carroll, author, columnist, media commentator and consultant, will share his insights on the major scientific, technological, consumer and social trends that are changing the concept of healthcare delivery on November 3 at HealthAchieve. Learn more at www.healthachieve.com.

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