by William Applegate, PhD
The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human body, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease. – Thomas A. Edison
Thomas Edison spoke these words in 1902, showing foresight that may have leaped over the century that followed. For literally hundreds of years, we have held physicians and healthcare professionals accountable for treating the ill, the sick and the broken. The healthcare system of today, essentially pathogenic in its training and practice, has evolved into a complex and highly specialized structure orientated to ‘fix’ to the exacerbated conditions of patients. Let’s call this Healthcare Version 1.0, and we’re now in the twilight hours of that era.
In the past decade, and particularly with advancements in codified healthcare reform initiatives launched over the past several years, a shift has begun. Physicians and healthcare professionals are increasingly accepting accountability for pre-emptive education, care management and proactive prevention efforts aimed at guiding patients to better health outcomes. This includes individuals with chronic conditions, those with health risks and even individuals who simply strive for better health. This is Healthcare Version 2.0, and that’s where we’re presently headed.
However, there is growing recognition among smart policy leaders and more innovative healthcare organizations that a new level of accountability will distinguish the meek from the mighty as healthcare continues to evolve. This is a ‘health-positive’, salutogenic model, where healthcare professionals inspire the patient to accept accountability by partnering with them to create a care management plan, prompt improved health behaviors and build self-care skills. Using one of healthcare’s most vexing chronic conditions as an illustration, that 95 percent of diabetes care is self-care underscores the reality that most healthcare takes place not in the provider’s office but instead in the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens of their patients’ homes.
Inspiring accountability with individual patient—this is Healthcare Version 3.0. Physicians and healthcare professionals will not only engage patients in the care of their own bodies, as Edison presciently suggested, but they also inspire patient accountability for their own healthy futures. This is the promising future potential of the healthcare system, and it highlights the powerful new reality—that the patient is truly the greatest untapped resource in healthcare.