With radical changes occurring in the access to health insurance and Medicare in the United States, many people have begun asking what the future holds for health care. Whatever the political decisions made regarding who pays for and provides access to health care, there are a number of changes on the horizon for health care itself.
Over the next several years, the average population age of Americans is projected to increase dramatically. While in the year 2000 there were just over 35 million Americans over the age of 65, in just thirty years, that number is projected to double. This means a profound shift in health care focus to more age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and certain types cancer. On top of this, normal end of life care must expand to provide for a population that is heavily tilted to an older demographic. The number of nurses and elderly care physicians will necessarily need to increase to attend to this predominantly older population.
Many medical experts predict a change soon in the way health care is administered. For the most part, medicines are manufactured in bulk to respond to predominant or common ailments in a population. Pharmaceutical companies manufacture drugs that are more likely to result in large profits by targeting those diseases which are easily treatable or which affect large numbers of people. However, those medicines are broadly manufactured with an eye to helping the largest segment of the population. Future medicine will focus more on personalized care, using molecular diagnostic tests and genetic analysis to manufacture drugs specifically designed for an individual and his or her unique ailment.
Greater Efficiency in Doctor Visits
Several different health care organizations are suggesting new ways to approach the common doctor visit. As it is, individuals arrive at the doctor’s office, fill out the same forms they filled out last time, wait until they are processed, have vitals checked, wait for the nurse, receive some basic care, wait for the doctor, and then are treated. This can take hours out of an individual’s day not to mention burdens both the doctor and his or her staff. In the future this may change with an emphasis on online information sharing between doctors, nurses, and patients as well as an exploration of online video chats with doctors. Both steps can improve an office’s efficiency and allow them to reach more patients.
Disease to Prevention
The large majority of individuals only visit the doctor when something is already wrong; either a prolonged cough, a sore throat, or a more serious pain has driven them to seek out professional help with their health. With the shift in health care funding and health insurance processes, it is likely there will be a profound shift in the way health care itself is administered. The likely context of this shift will involve a change in health management from curing and treating diseases to preventing them from emerging in the first place. Prevention medicine is much less expensive for each individual and is more universal in its prescription.
The future holds a great many changes for health care no matter the political debates about it. From the aging population to a shift in care models to medicine development, the future of health looks to change a great deal in the next few years.