Controlling healthcare costs has never seemed so far away, yet so near at hand. Politicians tell us we need to insure more people, invest in technology and launch new prevention services in order to reel in costs, despite any empirical evidence that it’s true. In fact, several studies have shown the opposite effect, where these techniques raise utilization and overall costs.
One postulate that does hold water is that bad behavior drives healthcare costs: smoking, diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, medication compliance and seat belt usage are the primary culprits. Many studies indicate that 50% or more of healthcare costs are associated with these behaviors and should be an integral component of a structured “demand management” program. The logical question is what can be done to get people to actually modify their risk?
No big surprise when I say there is no simple or single answer that will control why people make the choices they make. The solutions are also deeper than the proverbial carrot or stick. Plus, many healthcare ethicists ponder whether it’s equitable to assess penalties on those behaviors that, while avoidable in theory, may be manifested due to genetic predisposition.
One area of great interest for WBC is medication compliance. Why do patients take their meds or not? Why do scripts remain unfilled? How can we better monitor and intervene with patients that need assistance, particularly seniors. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri found that applying behavior changing strategies, such as using pill boxes, reducing the number of daily doses, or timing of meds so they can be taken simultaneously, can improve patients’ abilities to take their medications as required. While physical ailments, such as failing eyesight or arthritis can impede medication compliance with seniors, an additional significant reason is just failure to remember.
It has been estimated that over $100 billion a year is spent on preventable healthcare costs due to medication non-compliance. We will continue to investigate the underlying behavior triggers as well as the supportive intervention strategies to improve outcomes and reduce costs.