The Future of Healthcare: Part I, How the Empowered Patient Can Fix a Broken System

May 8, 2012
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Dr. Cindy Haines has made it her mission to help patients navigate through the imperfect healthcare system, which she has described as “broken.”

Dr. Cindy Haines has made it her mission to help patients navigate through the imperfect healthcare system, which she has described as “broken.”

A family physician based in St. Louis and adjunct faculty at the St. Louis University School of Medicine, Dr. Haines has evolved into a consumer health guru, helping the public understand the proper (read: minimized) role of the healthcare complex in fostering wellness. Her new book, The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System, identifies how we often misinterpret the healthcare system as infallible, offers strategies on how to use the efficient parts of the system to our advantage, and challenges us all to be a better steward of self – ultimately needing the system less as a result.

As chief medical officer of the health news and custom content company HealthDay and managing editor of HealthDay’s professional news wire, Physician’s Briefing, Dr. Haines is uniquely tuned in to millions of patients and providers, making her an authoritative voice on the future of healthcare in America. Her message is clear: empower people with information and transparency, and they will quickly learn what the system actually can and should provide.

Medical professionals can turn these metaphysical goals into a reality, as Dr. Haines noticed very early into her career as a family physician. People absorb only a fraction of the information received during a medical visit, she says, and an even smaller number understand the information accurately.

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Her efforts into properly educating the patient began simply, with a library of take-home one-pagers on a variety of conditions. Small-scale initiatives like these can help people achieve the ultimate goal: rely on healthcare less frequently to make decisions for you, and in turn take charge of your own health. An informed individual can then rely (as needed) on healthcare more efficiently, use up less healthcare services, and save money. It’s a simple concept that could have a profound effect on re-building the healthcare system.

According to Dr. Haines, healthcare is but a part of living healthy, not the sole vessel. Her advice is to never be a ‘patient’, but instead a ‘seeker of health’: a patient is someone who is sick and/or dependent on the healthcare system – an identity and passive position that can take over your life, she says. A seeker of health, on the other hand, is an individual who embraces the great responsibility and power he or she has over his/her own health and health outcomes. The seeker of health will be active in their health journey: they will pay attention to personal health and their surroundings, and in turn take action to avoid the extraneous devotion to the healthcare system.

Philosophically, an informed individual is inspired to seek a better wellbeing, aware and embracing that living healthy begins with one’s own unique circumstances. In practice, it is a realization that people have the power to change their health. The way we eat, the way we use our bodies, and the way we maintain our outlook on the world can often do muchmore to maintain our health and prevent disease than the healthcare system can.

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Becoming proactive about our health is an empowering concept that can unburden us of the frustrations of the healthcare complex – all the while saving the individual money, time and dignity.

-Cindy Haines