Occupy Healthcare: a Lost Opportunity?

There has been enough publicity about the Occupy Wall Street movement that it is already part of the lexicon, and no longer makes daily headlines.  Not hidden among the concerns of the country these days are healthcare, and to be more exact the inequities of its delivery.  There are those that debate whether healthcare is a right or privilege.  As one who was on the front lines in healthcare as a former physician in charge of a busy New York City emergency room, I will always be a health advocate for the poor. If they had equal medicine access, the costs of healthcare would be reduced for all, by them not utilizing expensive ER resources as their primary source of care.  Preventive medicine for all should be a goal of government.  If garbage collection and fines for urinating in public are carried out in the name of health maintenance, then preventive medical care should be as well.

Yes, there already is a movement called Occupy Healthcare, within the OWS group. Its primary focus is the insurance industry, claiming that healthcare today is a profit-driven enterprise and not outcomes-driven.  Here is one example of supporters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rZQFn6A6D-0. Interestingly, one blogger at http://www.thedoctorweighsin.com/, while discussing Occupy Healthcare indirectly alludes to the potential for wireless health technologies as one of the potential beneficial fixes; “…Technology is available now to transform many physical office visits into low cost, convenient virtual ones.”

What even some well-meaning healthcare providers do not realize is that if there is health insurance for all, and profits of insurance companies fell dramatically, it would not make our healthcare system any better or cheaper.  There needs to be dramatic, drastic, and swift change in our healthcare delivery itself that is independent of insurance profit margins. Providers need to know the cost of the tests and procedures they order and perform.  Patients need to be more engaged, educated, and empowered to make better decisions based on the many options being presented to them and their loved ones, even at the very last moments of life.

The Occupy healthcare movement, I have found, has diverse messages, similar to its ‘parent organizers.’ I’ve seen messages ranging from “I am ready to build the healthcare system America deserves” to “Insurance companies have no rights to a penny profit.”  I believe the message needs to be goal-oriented as has been said about sympathizers to Occupy Wall Street.  Having different nebulous messages and no conceivably accomplishable goals makes the movement pointless from a functionality standpoint. I believe that the media would pay more attention and the average citizen is upset enough at the status quo that a focused message would certainly take hold regarding the need to change our healthcare system in ways not seen.  Dissatisfaction by physicians who are, with nurses, the strongest patient advocates is an opportunity that should not be squandered.  This movement gels with general disgust of government in general and there are fewer things more important in the next presidential race than this. There is time to focus and organize.  Wireless technologies present an attractive tool in achieving some of the things this movement desires.

About davidleescher

David Lee Scher, MD is Founder and Director at DLS HEALTHCARE CONSULTING, LLC, which specializes in advising digital health technology companies, their partners, investors, and clients. As a cardiac electrophysiologist and pioneer adopter of remote patient monitoring, he understood early on the challenges that the culture and landscape of healthcare present to the development and adoption of digital technologies. He is a well-respected thought leader in mobile and other digital health technologies. Scher lectures worldwide on relevant industry topics including the role of tech in Pharma, patient advocacy, standards for development and adoption, and impact on patients and healthcare systems from clinical, risk management, operational and marketing standpoints. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine.
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