Vivek Murthy, MD, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States, was sworn in this year with a personal goal of getting every individual, institution and sector involved in improving the health and strength of America through a focus on prevention. He believes that it is the duty of all industries, not just healthcare, to make improving the health of Americans a top priority by creating a prevention-based society:
"…one in which every institution — whether they're a hospital or a clinic, or a school, an employer or faith-based organization — recognizes and embraces the role that it can play in improving health."
Dr. Murthy believes that the health challenges we face cannot be solved by the traditional healthcare sector alone. For example, he wants to reach out to and work with employers to make physical activity a part of the culture of the workplace and offer healthier, more nutritious food options. He also wants to work with faith-based leaders to address the stigma that is often associated with mental illness that can keep patients from getting the help they need.
Of course, the healthcare system will always be a critical part of the equation. Too many patients experience pain, suffering and even death from conditions that could have been prevented. If the U.S. had in place a system that focused on prevention, we would reduce the incidence of illnesses, infections and adverse events, not just improving health for consumers but also lowering healthcare costs.
As our healthcare system moves from a fee-for-service to a quality-based system, we’re already beginning to see the emphasis on prevention. Several programs focus on healthcare quality measures, such as the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting program, the Hospital Value-based Purchasing program, the Readmissions Reduction program, and the Hospital-acquired Conditions program. Hundreds of hospitals have already seen steep financial penalties related to preventable conditions, and in the coming years both the number of quality measures as well as the penalty amounts will increase. The expected outcome will be that these penalties with push facilities to innovate to provide better, safer care for patients and move us toward a prevention-based society to keep America healthy.
Perhaps over the next four years under Dr. Murthy’s leadership, healthcare as well as other stakeholders will work together to progress achievement of a prevention-based society that benefits us all