10 Health 3.0

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    The healthcare system affects us all. The number of senior citizens is increasing, we are living longer lives, and we are expecting more from our medical scientists. The healthcare sector is quite large – from health insurers to the pharmaceutical industry, and from outpatient care institutions to hospitals. The sector is heavily criticized. Every discussion turns into a financial one. We are dealing with a strange system of payments, wherein everybody – from consumer to insurer, from specialist to the Ministry – has lost their way.

    The problems in healthcare are well known. Healthcare, as we now know and have come to expect, is becoming prohibitive. In the meantime, demand will only increase. We will have to contribute more. But, we have to do that for our pension as well, and perhaps for other services, too. A hospital or other healthcare institution will never become a company, and doctors will never become managers. Managers will never become doctors. They don’t have to. That is probably where the crux of the problem is, but because of the independence of patients and the diligent drive of the government for control and issuing of rules, fed by nontransparent structures and rewards, healthcare organizations are forced to act like companies. The Baumol Effect, the phenomenon where a rise of salaries in jobs that have experienced no increase of labor productivity is a response to rising salaries in other jobs which did experience such labor productivity growth, may play a role here too.

    Every country in Europe has its own system. For some reason, in The Netherlands, we pay an annual fixed amount to get basic care. However, this money is given to health insurance organizations which have only one goal: to make as much money for their shareholders as possible. Endless struggles between healthcare providers and these companies are a result, and, for the first time in history, in 2013, Dutch hospitals went bankrupt.

    When health organizations should behave as a (efficient and effective) company, they do not. The bickering about the electronic patient file all over Europe is yet another example of old and imperious thinking. It is made too complex, and is therefore going rapidly down a road to failure. Just give patients a chip in their medical ID card or keyring, containing their basic medical data, and have that card updated during every visit to a physician. Combine that with files patients can keep up to date themselves on Google Health (free of charge), and we have made a huge first step, at little cost.

    We can stimulate a healthier lifestyle by applying gamification, however strange that may sound. The website healthmonth.com is literally child’s play, encouraging children to become more aware about their own lifestyle. They set monthly goals, and are rewarded for reaching them. The website GoodGuide.com rates over 60,000 products. The impact of these products on our health is rated scientifically on our environment and our living conditions.

    Patients are becoming more independent, and they are getting organized. They are forming communities, too. One example is the association Per Saldo, “an association for people who need care and support and who want to arrange that themselves, without governmental involvement.” It already has over 24,000 members, and is provided with a professional support system. The site Patientslikeme.com is also noteworthy: tens of thousands of patients exchange information on this website about doctors, treatments, hospitals, and more.

    Thanks to the Internet, we have all become specialists, and we can find the answer to many of our medical questions. I can, for example, find out how my medication works on surveyorhealth.com, including advice on whether it can be combined with other medications. Knowledge is no longer limited to a select medical community. If only for this reason, our healthcare is getting more expensive, because medical practitioners feel they are forced to work more defensively. Because of the many websites with reviews of physicians and medical institutes, the required transparency of successes and failures, and the increased personal responsibility in the future, risks are increasingly being avoided. Why don’t you run an extra test, or ask for a complete lab report and a second scan, to be on the safe side? It is no wonder that the American healthcare system is so expensive. Doctors are being sued there at the slightest provocation, and the premiums of their liability insurance range from $20,000 to $50,000 per physician per year! Are we headed that way as well?

    Yet, doctors can use all this available global information, too. You can find over 2,500 case studies, including videos, scans, and other shared information on medting.com. Or you can turn to eyetube.net to find out more about eye-related diseases.