By John Espinola, M.D.
Executive Vice President, Healthcare Services
The adage, “You get what you pay for” works in many parts of the consumer economy. Sadly, that's not the case in healthcare. Part of the problem, as we outlined before, is the cost. And another part of the problem is patients paying for what they don't need. We'll address that in the next post.
A huge and often under-reported problem is the millions of patients who do not get care that they actually do need. People call this “under-utilization.” That's a fancy way of saying you're not signing up for some important treatments that can keep you well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans use preventive services about half the time they should. There are real health consequences to this neglect, and it is putting people in danger.
For example, a one-time vaccination could prevent nearly 10,000 deaths from pneumonia each year. Yet about 40 percent of those 65 and older fail to get the shot. Vaccination rates for infants and children are much higher. But the stories about measles outbreaks in recent years prove we still have a ways to go to make sure the little ones get these essential shots.
Another study showed that only one in 20 women are consistently getting an annual breast cancer screening mammogram. Regular mammograms are clearly associated with reduced risk of death from breast cancer.
It's clear that many people miss out on simple steps proven to improve long-term health. In future posts, we'll talk about what Premera is doing to encourage vaccinations and proven cancer screenings.
What we want for our customers
Here at Premera, we'd actually like it if our customers didn't have to think about these problems at all. Our purpose is to help solve them so people don't have to think about these things when they go to the doctor's office. Instead, they can focus on being a patient and getting well.
John Espinola, MD, MPH is Premera's Executive Vice President of Healthcare Services. He is also board certified in geriatrics and internal medicine. Read more about Dr. Espinola on our executive bios page.