Adopting simple, proven preventative practices could save Americans billions in health care costs per year and allow most to live longer lives. Nurses trained in basic screenings and counseling can have profound impacts.
A new idea:
Believe it or not, the notion of providing preventative services is a relatively new one, and before the year 2012, only half of United States adults received or had open access to these types of services.
Unfortunately, data still shows that the cost of preventative services tends to create a major disparity. Essentially, the high cost of medical services in general (this could include anything from routine tests, specialist appointments, medicines, various exams, etc.) has the ability to scare many in need of life-saving services away—especially those who are uninsured or belong to lower income populations. For example, while breast cancer screenings have shown to save nearly 45 years of life per 10,000 people per year, the average of $61 per year for the actual screening may not be financially feasible for many people. The same goes for childhood immunizations and valuable smoking cessation programs.
The only solution to this problem is to increase the use and access to life saving preventative services.
One way to accomplish this goal is to increase the number of physicians, nurse practitioners, and RNs who provide these types of services. While this will provide an instant boost, it is only half of the solution. In addition to adding more medical providers, there must also be additional systems in place that identify at risk individuals.
Again, while this may initially appear daunting and complicated, the cost is truly minimal. In fact, the marginal delivery cost of making preventative services available to 90 percent of the entire United States-based population will only require one percent of current health care spending. Yep, you read that correctly—just one percent!
Keeping that figure in mind, it is suggested that the implementation of these preventative care programs would result in an annual cost savings of an impressive $61.9 billion.
So how does spending money on care actually save us money down the road? That’s an easy question to answer. Think about it—if you equip a long time smoker with the tools they need to identify the dangerous triggers to their smoking, enabling them to extinguish their bad habit forever, there is a high likelihood that individual will not develop deadly diseases like COPD or lung cancer, which requires major medical intervention, expensive drugs and long, often painful hospital stays. The same goes for babies who are vaccinated at an early age. Thanks to their vaccinations, they will not contract diseases that are not only life threatening, but incredibly costly to successfully treat.
Regardless of how this service implementation is scaled, the additional cost of widespread preventative care services would result in a virtually unnoticeable portion of existing health care spending. In the long run, providing a large population with services aimed to address medical issues before they have a chance to fully develop, would not only eventually be cost neutral, it would save a myriad of lives. Perhaps just as important, this would educate the greater population on how to improve their overall health, behavior and well-being.
Infographic & data provided by the University of San Francisco’s School of Nursing & Health Professions.