Improving Healthcare Requires "Raising the Bar"

When it comes to the US healthcare system, the ONE thing we can all agree on is we spend far too much and have far too little to show for it. In fact, we spend more money per person than any other country in the world, yet rank 55th in terms of quality. And we still have many Americans that lack insurance or who have inadequate policies.  

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded coverage to many and attempted to shift incentives through value-based care initiatives, our current healthcare system still fails to effectively address the underlying, “root causes” of chronic, expensive diseases.

 

IDENTIFYING THE “ROOT CAUSES”

Yes, high drug prices and middle-men, such as pharmacy benefit managers and group purchasing organizations, contribute to costs. And the healthcare industry could definitely stand to reduce its administrative overhead.

But the biggest drivers of costs, are our LIFESTYLES. Only a small fraction of the population gets enough physical activity or consumes enough fruits and vegetables. We do a horrible job at managing stress and mental illness, and abusing substances becomes our primary form of coping.

Our culture encourages, and our economic environment often requires, working non-stop at the expense of sleep. And we don’t educate people well enough for them to make informed decisions about their health and habits.

 

SOLUTIONS, NOT BANDAIDS

In addition to crafting policy that helps mitigate poverty and improve education, we need to start approaching care delivery from a more prevention and lifestyle-focused lens. We need to support people in learning about self-care, developing better coping skills and changing long-ingrained habits and mindsets. And we need to give mental health parity with physical health.

Last week, we published a white paper offering guidance to healthcare providers on communication to support patient behavior change. But doctors alone cannot bear the burden of this onerous task.

 

EDUCATION, COMMUNICATION & COLLABORATION

For one reason, medical schools generally don’t offer enough training in the areas of nutrition, exercise, and behavior change. Secondly, there’s a physician shortage in many areas, which makes it logistically and financially unfeasible, to have doctors doing all of the coaching and counseling necessary to support patients in making sustainable changes.

Personal trainers, health coaches and nutritionists are all, potentially, excellent resources for facilitating lifestyle change, yet they are largely shunned by the traditional medical community for having unreliable credentials and sometimes dubious practices. Lack of state licensing for these professions leads to a lot of variation in quality and very little accountability. On the upside, it does provide a low barrier to entry, and means that these professionals can be employed at far lower cost than traditional healthcare providers.

As former full-time personal trainers, Jamie Wolff and I have encountered “the good, the bad, and the ugly” in the wellness world, and we want to recognize those who “do the right thing”, (last movie reference, I promise! ;-p) and help them earn the respect they deserve as arbiters of health. We also want to increase awareness amongst our peers of the importance of adhering to an ethical standard that prioritizes clients’ long-term well-being.

 

RAISE THE BAR

To accomplish our goal of elevating the status of wellness professionals and giving them a seat at the “table” of traditional healthcare, we created the “Raise the Bar” campaign. Through this initiative, we hope to rally members of the fitness community around an hippocratic-like oath, based on four pillars, Compassion  -  Mindfulness  -  Neutrality  -  Credibility.

If you’re a wellness professional or ally, please consider joining the RTB movement! Take the pledge HERE and sign up to become a program ambassador. Ambassadors will receive a super-cute, organic cotton tote-bag to proudly display your support. Tag us in your social media posts using the hashtag #WHRaisetheBar: Twitter (@WalnutHealth ); Facebook (@walnuthealthllc); LinkedIn (Walnut Health LLC); Instagram (walnut_health). And please follow while you’re at it! ;-)