When we became doctors, we did so because we wanted to help patients live longer, healthier lives. Not because we wanted to "provide healthcare."
That said, as days get more hectic, as visits with patients get shorter, and as demands on us get more intense, it's not easy to keep our sights on that vision of health.
But a recent study reminded me of the very real difference between healthcare and true health -- and I bet it's a reminder that most of you need, too.
A recent article in Fierce Healthcare looks at a study by The Stanford University School of Medicine's Clinical Excellence Research Center in California, which explored what role healthcare plays in avoiding premature death.
This question about the role of healthcare almost feels like a contradiction in terms -- our knee-jerk reaction is to say, "Of course healthcare plays the primary role in preventing premature death!" But the results of the study contradicts that intuitive response. In fact, although healthcare plays a role in longevity, behavioral and social factors have much more influence on the longevity of people in the United States
Healthcare is estimated to prevent 5-15% of premature deaths. Behavioral and social factors, on the other hand, account for between 16% and 65% of premature deaths in the United States. As Robert Kaplan, research director of the Clinical Excellence Research Center (CERC) said, “in order to bring the U.S. health back in line with other rich countries, we need more than medicine.”
So what is that "more than medicine" that our patients need?
Dr. Steven Woolf, MD, Virginia Commonwealth University explains, “Healthcare systems need to do their part, such as paying attention to the social needs of their patients in order to help lower emergency department visits and hospital admissions.” In other words, we need to:
- Take a holistic view of our patients' health, including their social, environmental, financial, and behavioral realities.
- Coordinate care and do medical collaboration so that we can actually attend to the full picture of our patients' health, rather than just "providing care."
That might mean realizing that a patient can't take time off work -- so using iClickCare to collaborate with a colleague on the case, rather than sending the patient for a consult. It might mean coordinating with a patient's care team across the continuum of care, including all of the aides and nurses that will care for that patient when they are discharged. It might mean doing medical collaboration with our young patient's teachers, social worker, pediatrician, and family -- rather than performing a procedure in isolation.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: medical collaboration is not an optional flourish -- it's the foundation of caring for our patients in a truly effective way.
Get our Quick Guide to Medical Collaboration for free, here: