It’s fair to say that most of the population doesn’t go to the doctor unless they’re sick. Even if someone is having back pain, the average person won’t go to the chiropractor until the pain is unbearable. Why is that? Well there are two main reasons, in our opinion. One is that it’s ingrained in our culture that you don’t “fix” something unless it’s “broken.” The other is that health care in the U.S. can be really expensive, and so people avoid medical bills whenever they can.
However, we’d like to make the case that preventative care can solve both of those problems.
When it comes to the human desire to avoid being sick or being in pain, preventative care makes total sense. Instead of waiting until your allergies turn into a full-blown sinus infection that you need antibiotics and an appointment for, why not see an allergist (or even just your doctor) to get tips on how to better manage your allergies? Instead of waiting until your hip is so deteriorated that you’ll need surgery in a few years, why not see a physical therapist to give you exercises and stretches to put off that surgery and possibly avoid it altogether? It doesn’t make sense to wait until the absolute worst to get care.
Think of your health like a car. You don’t drive your car until it breaks and then get a new one; you get the oil changed regularly, you rotate your tires, you get your brakes replaced. Why? Because you want that car to perform well and last as long as possible. If we applied the same concept to our bodies (and we should, because unlike cars, you can’t get a new body) we would live pain-free for much longer and perform better.
For the second part, arguably the biggest barrier to taking preventative care more seriously, is the cost. Again though, it’s much more expensive to get a couple thousand-dollar hip replacement surgery than to pay $50-125 per physical therapy session. Not to mention the physical therapy sessions will give you tips you can use on your own for years. One study found that people who practice preventative care for heart health spent around $5,000 less per year on healthcare costs than those who practice very few or no heart-healthy habits.
Preventative care can also help you avoid emergencies, which in turn saves you money. Ambulances and trips to the emergency room are the quickest ways to get hit with massive medical bills. If you get preventative care, that could help you and your doctor to find and treat things early that would’ve ultimately ended up being an emergency. $395 for a comprehensive physical exam sounds like a better deal than a $1,389 emergency room visit.
Providers, payers, employers, and patients are all beginning to see the benefits of preventative care. Many employers and health insurance companies now offer preventative care at no extra cost or at a much lower rate to encourage their groups to stay healthy and spend less on health care. And when patients are spending less on health care, it saves money for their health insurer (or employer, if they have employer-sponsored health coverage.)
Patients have a responsibility to take their health seriously and utilize preventative care, but employers, payers, and even providers can all take this practice further by offering incentives and services that encourage people to use it. Some of these incentives could be direct primary care, telehealth, rewards programs for getting lab work done or getting a physical, or simply offering affordable care. By increasing education and awareness about preventative care, we can help create a society of healthier, happier people.
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