A focus on negative data fuels false assumptions that aging is always unhealthy. Instead of contributing to this expectation, physicians and healthcare providers should help seniors avoid disease by promoting healthy habits, says Robert Drapkin, MD, FACP.
(Tampa Bay, FL) May 27, 2015—News reports focusing on negative data reinforce the expectation that poor health comes with age, and feed into a cycle that leads to extraneous medical procedures and skyrocketing healthcare costs, which reached $2.9 trillion in 2013 and are projected to grow an average of 6% annually through 2023. (1) To reverse this unsustainable trend, Robert Drapkin, MD, board-certified physician in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care, recommends that healthcare practitioners promote healthy habits to prevent disease, rather than simply treating the symptoms of sedentary lifestyles that appear as people age.
A Pew Research Study that found four in 10 adults in the U.S. are caring for sick or elderly family members. As the population ages and medical advances extend lifespans, home caregiver numbers are projected to increase; nearly half of the adults surveyed by Pew Research said that they expect to care for an elderly parent or relative in the future. (2)
The Affordable Care Act (ACA)—with tenets of quality care at every age—has abandoned the longstanding fee-for-service model, which unintentionally encouraged office visits, tests, procedures and surgeries, some say. Instead, healthcare providers are incentivized to reduce costs while providing better quality care; preventative care, including blood pressure and mammography screenings, is covered 100%, to help keep patients healthy. In addition, doctors, hospitals and other practitioners are encouraged to coordinate care through the formation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which are financially incentivized to save money by avoiding unnecessary procedures—all changes which Dr. Drapkin says will assist in reversing the false data that wellness is virtually impossible as an individual ages.
“Seniors and their families will greatly benefit from an emphasis on improving overall wellness, rather than endless treatments and over-medication,” said Dr. Drapkin. “Without a focused effort on education, the soaring costs of healthcare, combined with an overall disregard for their fundamental health needs, will continue to push the burden of care onto family members.”
Per Dr. Drapkin, further concerted effort throughout the healthcare system to promote healthy habits earlier in life would help Americans avoid many of the conditions that cause poor quality of life and financial worries as they age.
The average lifespan in the U.S. now ranges from 66.1 to 81.6 years for men and 73.5 to 86 years for women. Avoiding the diseases and chronic conditions tied to unhealthy lifestyles can significantly reduce individual expenditures on healthcare, and prevent premature deaths from smoking, obesity and alcohol. (3)
“The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country,” said Dr. Drapkin, “but our overall health is not on par with the rest of the world. In some states, lifespans are actually decreasing as a result of lifestyle choices and unhealthy habits.”
Illustrating that point, the overburdened healthcare system focuses at least 25% of its resources to treat preventable diseases and disabilities that result from harmful habits such as smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, failure to use seat belts and alcohol abuse. In fact, alcohol, cigarettes and obesity cost the U.S. healthcare system a combined $177 billion per year. (4)
Along with questions regarding who should pay for the consequences of unhealthy behaviors, the healthcare system will also struggle with increasing demand for services. Some 70% of people over the age of 65 will require some form of long-term healthcare, (5) and as a result of the ACA, healthcare providers will be seeing more patients, as fewer uninsured individuals forego healthcare. A study published by the Annals of Family Medicine reports that 52,000 additional primary care physicians will be needed in the U.S. by 2025, but too few medical residents are choosing primary care to fill this need. (6)
“Clearly, a new approach is needed to avoid over-stressing the healthcare system and families of the elderly in the U.S.,” said Dr. Drapkin. “Eliminating preventable diseases through education about healthy habits would not only ease these burdens, but would also reduce healthcare expenditures and increase Americans’ lifespans. It’s a win-win approach that will produce healthier, happier seniors.”
Dr. Drapkin has dedicated decades of his career to the study of diet and exercise. He is inspired to help his patients prevent and treat medical conditions to improve their quality of life.
About Dr. Robert Drapkin, MD, FACP:
Robert Drapkin, MD, is a healthcare provider who is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care. He is in active practice, working to save lives and improve quality of life through the education of his patients. He provides up-to-date knowledge and guides patients through their illnesses, exercises and diets. He has been in active practice in medicine for over 36 years. Dr. Drapkin is currently 70 years old and started training as a body builder when he was in his fifties. He has been a competitive body builder for 17 years, and has won many titles and contests. He is currently in training for a national event being held in July, 2015.
- “National Health Expenditure Data;” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, last updated December 3,2014; accessed May 18, 2015. cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/NationalHealthExpendData/NHE-Fact-Sheet.html.
- “Caregivers: Two-Fifths of U.S. Adults Care for Sick, Elderly Relatives;” Huffington Post, June 20, 2013; accessed May 18, 2015. huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/caregivers-adults-care-for-elderly-relatives-sandwich-generation_n_3469779.html.
- “Women Lag in Life-Expectancy Gains,” USA TODAY; April 19, 2012; accessed May 20, 2015. usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/health/story/2012-04-19/Life-expectancy-improves-slower-for-women/54419298/1.
- “Voluntary Health Risks: Who Should Pay?” Santa Clara University; accessed May 20, 2015. scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v6n1/voluntary.html.
- “Making Your Retirement Assets Last;” The Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2012; accessed May 20, 2015. wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443991704577578860843781548.
- “Doctor Shortage, Increased Demand Could Crash Health Care System;” CNN; October 2, 2013; accessed May 20, 2015. cnn.com/2013/10/02/health/obamacare-doctor-shortage/.
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Karla Jo Helms
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