Today, I want to talk about taking preventative health care to the home. I first mentioned this idea a couple weeks ago, as part of my overall health plan that I introduced on Trey Radel's Southwest Florida Fox Radio show.
My health plan would have three main parts: 1. Preventative health care that belongs to the government, 2. Free-market specialist care, 3. Digital passports stored to personal phones and protected by laws that empower patients.
I thought about that plan again this morning as Lawrence, my husband, and I hung out at our Tallahassee primary care clinic for two hours (!) to get some routine things done. The time we spent there is about par for the course and makes access inconvenient for working families.
We went to the doctor for Lawrence's physical. We've been getting a baseline on his health since his dad suddenly passed in February from heart disease. (We had already rescheduled once, because last time, the physician's assistant who we see was running late).
At the primary care clinic, Lawrence got the results of his blood work, had his first prostate exam to check for cancer and had his ears cleaned. He also got a referral to a podiatrist to get a toe nail pulled that had been injured during a basketball game years ago, and has already received a different referral from the clinic to see a heart doctor in town.
All this basic, preventative work could have been done inside our home. It also would have been more comfortable for Lawrence, a 38-year-old white male , who was hesitant to get his first prostate exam.
(Lawrence bravely believes we shouldn't be embarrassed about our health and is okay with me writing about his).
I think we should move primary care into the domain of public health and hand it over to the government because we would catch more diseases earlier and because I think it would save us money. As I told Trey on his show, the government is really good at providing basic maintenance at a relatively low cost, such as for roads, and we should start considering our bodies as part of that of overall endeavor.
How would it work?
We should give local county health departments the staffing and resources they need to go door-by-door into their designated communities to administer vaccines and birth control, give physicals, take labs and write referrals to specialists.
What's the government bad at? Innovating.
So, break the specialist market up, remove anti-competitive laws from federal and state books and make them compete in a way they don't have to right now.
All pieces of this plan would require an overhaul of health laws and culture to put the educated patient in the driver's seat of their health plan.
But the third piece may require the biggest overhaul: Give patients back their health data and empower them to use it to shop for personalized medicine. I'll have more on that later.
In related news, I want to flag this piece in GQ yesterday, where Ibram X. Kendi, a 38-year-old black historian, raised awareness about the racial disparities in treating colon cancer through his own fight.
"African Americans are now 40 percent more likely to die from the disease than other racial groups," wrote Kendi, yesterday, with GQ writer Mik Awake. "There are many possible causes for that disparity, chief among them that African Americans tend to have lower incomes, live in more polluted neighborhoods, and have less access to preventative care, early detection, and high-quality treatment than White Americans."
Americans without good access to preventative medicine would be helped the most by our system going directly to patients. But we would all benefit from a more integrative primary care health plan.
Next week's debut writer — a Florida political spouse who got an inaccurate terminal cancer diagnosis — originally showed me the article. Make sure to mark your calendars for next Thursday, because you won't want to miss her own essay.