Can nurses fix healthcare?
The United States spends more than any other country on healthcare, yet ranks dead last for access, patient safety, coordination, efficiency and equity. Apparently, we’re not getting much bang for our buck.
Sadly, we’ve been in last place for awhile. The Commonwealth Fund analyzes and compares the health systems of multiple industrialized countries each year — Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The US was last in 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2010, despite spending almost twice as much per capita ($8508 vs. $4418 for France).
Researchers observe that the universal healthcare systems in the other six countries encourage a close relationship between patients and a medical “home base.” Many are also ahead in the use of information technology, which can streamline patient care and improve diagnosis and treatment.
Interestingly, some Americans believe nurses can act as “home base” for patients here in the United States. A recent New York Times article detailed the efforts of one insurance company to cut costs. They did it by hiring nurses. According to the Times, the nurses “full-time job is to help patients with chronic diseases stay on top of their conditions, and, ideally, out of the hospital.” So far, it’s worked: hospital admissions are down 18 percent, while medical expenses decreased seven percent. Patients are pleased with the system as well.
What do you think of the “home base” idea? Do you believe nurses are key to real healthcare reform?
Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.
By Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN