American medicine is the finest in the world. Whether it’s judged by the number of new medicines we discover, or the capabilities of the latest healthcare technologies we develop, or the varieties of innovative treatments and techniques we perfect, American medicine is the best in the world.
However, the development and application of medicines, technology, and treatments are just two components of our complex healthcare system. Another equally important component involves ensuring that the citizens of our country have access to and can afford the best American medicine has to offer. This is the area in which our healthcare system is beginning to fail on many levels.
The extent of this system-wide failure is self-evident. Why then are so few people talking seriously about what is shaping up to be the greatest domestic political issue of our time? How will we maintain our accustomed standards of medical excellence if we are not prepared to seriously address this growing threat that is eroding the foundation of America’s healthcare delivery system?
As an entrepreneur, I have spent my entire career in healthcare information publishing, which has allowed me to gain an insider’s perspective on the groundbreaking medical technologies that are having such a profound impact on so many patients’ lives. It has been an amazing experience to observe newly discovered drugs travel the pipeline from pharmaceutical research labs through the FDA and into our physicians’ offices, where they are used to improve and even save the lives of countless patients. Medical science has provided us untold benefits, and also offers the promise of even greater breakthroughs to come.
But a great and looming crisis threatens it all:
Retiring baby boomers’ demand for healthcare, on top of exploding cost increases, will weaken the delivery system and exacerbate healthcare worker shortages
Indigent care, reimbursement issues, and operational costs are putting unbearable pressure on many hospital systems
The lack of effective federal Medical Liability Reform continues to undermine the viability of the medical practitioner and threatens the growth of desperately needed healthcare jobs
Government increasingly sets prices for healthcare products and services through massive entitlement spending that is eliminating the competitive, free market from healthcare
These and other ominous developments pose a grave threat to American medicine and the economy of our nation; consider that by the year 2014, a short eight years from now, nearly 19 percent of GDP — a staggering $3.6 trillion dollars — will be consumed by healthcare expenditures. It is critical that we address these systemic problems at their roots; short-term fixes, like patches in a New Orleans levee, ultimately only delay the day of reckoning and pass the problem on to future generations.
As time is of the essence, I encourage you to share with me your greatest concerns regarding the challenges facing our healthcare delivery system by E-mailing me at email@example.com. Together, we can begin a dialogue, and through our efforts discover and nurture new ideas for change, enabling many voices to speak as one as we pursue a solution.
The writer is chairman and CEO of Intellisphere, a medical publications company based at the Princeton Meadows Office Center.