Futurist Looks Beyond Government and Doctors To Reform Health Care | WGLT

Futurist Looks Beyond Government and Doctors To Reform Health Care

Aug 29, 2018

If you're looking for the federal government to fix the American health care system, Jeff Bauer says you're looking in the wrong place.

Bauer is a health futurist and medical economist—a thought-leader in an industry that many say is broken. Bauer spoke Tuesday night at Illinois State University, for the kickoff celebration for the Mennonite College of Nursing's 100th anniversary.

Bauer said our country isn't spending too much on health care. We're just spending it in all the wrong places—creating waste in health care delivery. He said the U.S. “spends twice as much money, almost, as people in the comparable countries.” Americans spend 17 percent of GDP on health care as opposed to the average 10 percent or less that countries like Germany, France, and Canada spend, he said.

"These are exceptional health care systems that have worked out the kinks and really focused on making their populations healthier."

“All of those countries have healthier people,” Bauer said. “Spending the same amount on health care is my goal, but spending it wisely is what we ought to be pursuing.”

Instead of looking to government reform as the answer, Bauer said the private sector—and that includes nonprofits—is where to look. He points to the Mayo Clinic, Group Health (since acquired by Kaiser Permanente), and Geisinger as examples of private health organizations that can serve as models.

“These are exceptional health care systems that have worked out the kinks and really focused on making their populations healthier, and they’ve all done it without participation in the government programs,” he said.

In a 20-minute interview on GLT’s Sound Ideas, Bauer also talked about the future of genetic testing, health data, and local health initiatives. He also praised developments in telehealth, in which a health care provider works with a patient who is not physically in the same room as them.

“The problem is that the insurance system isn’t paying for it,” Bauer said. “The people that will work with local partners and say, ‘How can we make sure that we don’t lose money in the process of doing telehealth or telemedicine?’ They’re going to thrive.”

Ahead of his speech to the Mennonite College of Nursing, Bauer said nurses and other non-physician health care professionals are underutilized.

“Nurses have skills that could contribute so much more than they do contribute, because of problems with the payment system, problems with state practice (laws) that require them to practice under or with direct supervision of a physician, when every single study that’s ever been done shows the nurses acting independently within their scopes of practice and with the right training do at least as well—if not better—than the physicians,” Bauer said.

“The real key to the future of health care is to liberate the advanced-practice nurses, the clinical pharmacists, the doctorate-trained physical therapists and psychologists, the people that can complement the role of physicians but give them the independence to do it,” he added.

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