By Alicia W. Roberts
Fixing the healthcare system in the United States will take nothing less than flipping it upside down – creating an industry, supported by businesses and consumers, that values preventing disease above treating it.
A recent Wake Forest University Charlotte Center panel discussion with four health care industry experts provided an executive-level summary of the state of the healthcare system and what’s being done to evolve it.
That new, upside-down healthcare system – where disease prevention takes priority over treatment – means doctors at Wake Forest are beginning to receive a very different kind of training. They’re learning to provide care as part of a team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants and social workers.
“They spend time in teams with physician assistant students and nursing students, realizing the talents of the people around them and thinking about the natural synergies that occur there,” said Dr. Edward Abraham, Dean of the Wake Forest School of Medicine.
It also means academic institutions partnering with businesses to build an economy that supports the transition from treating diseases to preventing them. In Winston-Salem, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter provides an incubator for biomedical and information technology academic groups and startup companies, for instance, to work together on new treatments and cures – all the while contributing to a revitalized economy.
That’s so important in areas such as Winston-Salem, which lost cornerstone corporations including RJR and Nabisco, Abraham said. “Healthcare is the future of the economy there,” he said.
Key takeaways from the talk:
On how education is changing so medical students can meet the demands of an evolving healthcare system:
“It’s going to very important that they understand the complexity of the patients, why they are seeking healthcare, how they engage with the community. … Education becomes very much a continual process for these students – and a lifelong process for these students.” – Dr. Edward Abraham, Dean of the WFU School of Medicine
On the poor return on investment the treatment-over-prevention healthcare system provides:
“We spend 20 cents of every dollar this country generates on healthcare. Every town thinks healthcare costs too much, but they all want a hospital because it creates jobs. That’s the dilemma. We have built a good chunk of our economy around healthcare vs. health.” – Donald R. Gintzig, WakeMed President and CEO, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Ret.
On why it’s important for the military to maintain research labs in Peru, Thailand and all over the world:
“Our ability to ensure that there is peace and stability in the world, which is vital to our economic wellbeing because we’re a global economy right now, is dependent on bringing health and wellness into these places in the world.” – Rear Admiral C. Forrest Faison (’80), Deputy Surgeon General of the Navy
On how physicians must help patients and families make decisions about when treatment is no longer working:
“It’s very difficult. Physicians need to learn how to relieve a family’s guilt at making a decision to do palliative care.” – Rear Admiral Charles Harr, (MD ’83, MBA ’16), Deputy to the Medical Officer of the Marine Corps and Lead Physician Surgical Services, Novant
Alicia W. Roberts is a freelance writer, editor and communicator, based in Charlotte, N.C.