In the last decade, the U.S. has taken measures to improve healthcare and the consumer experience. However, a recent study shows that only seven percent of Americans are satisfied with the current healthcare system. The desire for change even crosses political lines as six out of 10 people from multiple political affiliations all agree the healthcare system needs changes or a complete overhaul.
The public perception of U.S. healthcare also hasn’t changed much since 1994. According to a Gallup poll, seven in 10 think the current healthcare system is “in a state of crisis” or having “major problems,” with similar sentiments expressed for almost the last thirty years.
What are the biggest problems with U.S. healthcare? Below are eight of the top issues.
According to The Commonwealth Fund, even though U.S. healthcare costs are the highest among comparable countries, it underperforms in most verticals. While the U.S. scores high on patient-centered care, it scores lower on safe and coordinated care, driving the U.S. quality score down. Here are some of the quality issues.
1. Preventable Medical Errors
A recent study by Johns Hopkins analyzed medical death rate data for eight years and found that medical errors are to blame for more than 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S. This accounts for 10% of all U.S. deaths and makes it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.
2. Poor Amenable Mortality Rates
The U.S. ranked last on the Healthcare Access and Quality (HAQ) Index in amenable mortality among eight other comparable countries. Amenable mortality measures premature death that is preventable and treatable by effective and timely care. The HAQ index is a scale from 0 (worst) to 100 (best) and measures preventable mortality rates for 32 causes of death. A higher rating suggests fewer deaths due to a higher standard of care and access.
3. Lack of Transparency
Fraud and cover-ups are rampant in the U.S. healthcare system. A significant problem is upcoding which becomes a tug-of-war between providers and insurance providers, with policyholders stuck in the middle. Providers “upcode” a procedure to get more money from insurance companies, but insurance may charge higher premiums to employers, and tighten its belt when paying consumers. Health consumers get stuck in the middle without any control over health outcomes and pricing.
4. Difficulty Finding a Good Doctor
With a lack of accessible information on doctor credentials and accomplishments, health consumers cannot easily find a good doctor. Consumers rely on uninformed online reviews that can help with assessing traits like staff friendliness and wait times. But, these platforms do not offer critical information such as information about health conditions consumers may be facing, the right doctors with skills treating those conditions, and how to assess a physician’s skill level in helping them with their health maladies.
5. High Costs of Care
According to annual report data from the Health Cost Institute, average healthcare prices have increased year over year, with rates that were 15.0% higher in 2018 compared to 2014.
In 2018, U.S. firms and consumers spent 10% of GDP on healthcare—and this number has risen over the years. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary predicts that national healthcare spending in the U.S. (avg. annual rate of 5.4%) is expected to outpace GDP growth (avg. yearly growth rate of 4.3%) until the year 2023. Spending reached $3.81 trillion in 2019 and is predicted to reach $6.19 trillion in 2028 and account for 19.7% of the GDP.
6. A Lack of Insurance Coverage
Uninsured Americans face more health hardship than insured Americans. As reported by healthypeople.gov, a division of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the uninsured may not seek medical care due to high cost and may forgo preventive care and regular health screenings, negatively affecting health. Children are also less likely to access preventive services or receive care for treatable conditions like asthma..
Shortages and Inefficiencies
7. The Nursing and Physician Shortage
It’s a supply and demand issue. Data published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) postulates that the U.S. will experience a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 primary and specialty care physicians by 2033 as the demand increases.
Preventable medical errors and hospital readmissions due to lack of quality care put consumers’ health at risk, but they also waste valuable time and resources, making healthcare inefficient.
A 2017 international healthcare comparison report published by The Commonwealth Fund reported that the U.S. ranks 10th among 10 comparable countries in Administrative Efficiency. Doctors spend unnecessary time updating EHRs and coordinating with insurance companies due to coverage restrictions (each plan differs in coverage options), which wastes money and resources.