NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 5, 2005

The latest trend in health care? Patients are managing their own care. New technologies make it possible. Legislative changes facilitate it. And financial pressures all but require it, says Devon Herrick, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Today, for example, patients can:

  • Use the Internet to freely browse medical journals and libraries for information previously available only to professionals at a cost of thousands of dollars.
  • Test children for ear or strep infections at home, Using over-the-counter do-it-yourself diagnostic kits saves unnecessary trips to the doctor.
  • E-mail personal physicians to obtain a diagnosis, rather than making an in-of?ce visit.
  • Shop online for lower-cost prescription drugs or over-the-counter equivalents, saving up to 90 percent off the cost of brand name prescriptions.

Nearly half of Americans (45 percent) have some type of chronic condition. Patients with chronic diseases can manage their conditions and control their health care in ways unheard of only a few decades ago. For example, patients with diabetes can be trained to inject insulin, monitor and maintain a log of blood glucose levels, and use the results to adjust their dietary intake, activity levels and medicine doses.

Patients who manage their own care obtain results as good or better than those with standard physician care and can substantially lower health care costs in the process, says Herrick:

  • Asthmatics can use a software package to monitor their condition and transmit the data over the Internet to a physician for evaluation.
  • Patients with hypertension can test themselves and adjust their medications, based on a formula approved by their doctor.

If the obstacles to consumer driven health care are removed, health care quality would improve, and rising costs would be better contained, says Herrick.

Source: Devon Herrick, "Consumer Driven Health Care: The Changing Role of the Patient," National Center for Policy Analysis, Policy Report No. 276, May 5, 2005.

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