Healthcare in the United States: A Practical Look at the Problems, Conflicts, and Remedies
Most of the largest healthcare, diagnostics, and medicine related organizations in the world originated in the USA and the country continues to be the trillion-dollar industry’s prime consumer as well. Unfortunately, the expertise in healthcare as a business isn’t reflected as well when it comes to the country’s actual healthcare system. According to multiple surveys, including those conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), healthcare standards in the United States are largely lagging behind when compared internationally. It is to be noted that this fact is surprisingly true, in spite of America leading in many departments of healthcare technology, innovation, and research. The problems clearly have more to do with the availability, accessibility, affordability, and staff deficiencies rather than quality.
Low International Ranking
While the exact rank may differ, depending on which year, what parameters and the particular organization considered during the estimation, healthcare in the United States never seems to have been enough to put the country in even the top ten list for best healthcare providers by any of the independent organizations for many years now.
According to the results of an international study presented to the public and conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), last year, the US was 27th in respect to the quality of the nation’s internal healthcare and education system. Left behind by a majority of the developed nations, there could be a direct connection between the United States’ mostly privatized healthcare sector and the inability of the average citizen to avail healthcare at affordable rates for the most part.
As seen in the detailed charts, industry-specific explanations and various other forms of iterative and statistical data presented by WHO, other developed nations such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Austria, Japan and Australia scored significantly higher in almost all aspects of general healthcare, mortality rates, and accessibility of quality treatment than the US, which is as surprising as it is disappointing.
What is even more disappointing is the fact that even developing nations such as Colombia and Chile scored a higher rank than the US, which ended up in the 37th spot, closely followed by Slovenia and Cuba. Considering the fact that the United States has significantly better medical technology and facilities than any of the nations which were ranked close to the country, the rankings are somewhat baffling, or so it seems initially.
A Shortage of Available Healthcare Professionals
In order to get even a modest idea of the shortage that the US is currently suffering from, one doesn’t have to venture too far or look at results from external surveys. Even the government’s own healthcare page has put certain alarming numbers on the board, which are far too many to be discussed here, but this link should lead you directly to the page, should you be interested in knowing more.
Nonetheless, the following few facts can be ascertained and mentioned from the official page, as well as various other sources to get a decent idea regarding one of the biggest issues currently plaguing the United States healthcare system – an insufficient number of nursing professionals, physicians, and various other healthcare workers, all across the sector and in all parts of the nation.
- The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an estimated shortage of roughly 1.1 million nursing professionals
- By 2025, there will be an estimated shortage of 124,000 – 160,000 full-time physicians in the country
- Data from the Labor Department and other sources confirm that the allied healthcare professional deficit will easily reach 5 million or more by 2025
Online Education has Emerged as the Biggest Hope to Counter the Impending Shortage
Online education is the biggest hope for the US healthcare system to at least meet a portion of the crisis it is facing currently and is so obviously going to feel the brunt of, sooner rather than later.
After physicians and sometimes, just as much as them, nursing professionals play one of the core roles in a modern healthcare setting. The training and primary work of nurses automatically makes them useful even in rural healthcare settings, which are not so modern and do not have access to the best facilities, unlike the main cities. They can function and help, even in places where there can be little to no modern health equipment for them to use in helping their patients.
The availability of RN programs online has the potential to change the alarming situation, as these courses are preparing the present nursing force to meet the demands which will only begin to get dire when a few major retirement years hit in the coming decade. The ones who will be retiring will mostly consist of experienced and qualified nurses, who held high positions in various clinics and hospitals, across the 50 states.
In some states where nurse practitioners are allowed complete or partial autonomy to treat their patients, their deficit will be felt the most because the FNPs and NPs are currently the biggest hope that these small communities have in terms of receiving qualified medical advice, short of going into town and being admitted to a hospital, which is often not even considered due to the condition of the patients, be it medical or financial.
The present nursing force needs to come forward with more enthusiasm and avail the RN programs online so that they can be prepared to take up the more responsible and higher-paid roles when they are vacated by the thousands in the coming years. Carson-Newman University has some of the most diverse, CCNE accredited RN programs online, which are meant to equip the present population of registered nurses with the knowledge and education to take on those roles.
These RN to BSN, BSN to MSN – FNP and various other advanced nursing courses are designed with flexibility in mind, which means that full-time nurses can complete their RN programs online, without ever having to miss a single day of work. Unlike a lot of the other online nursing schools, there are practically no mandatory login times set in stone because they understand the tremendous pressure of working as a nurse and the unexpected schedules, all too well.
The same applies to various other types of allied healthcare education, and unlike the nursing profession, which does require a beginning in traditional nursing school, healthcare analysts, healthcare informatics specialists and medical coders can actually start their education via online courses.
On the other hand, phlebotomists, medical assistants, lab technicians, radiologists and almost all other professionals in the allied healthcare sector stand to gain from furthering their education via the internet. It is both encouraged and required to meet the impending crisis before it gets worse.
Making US Healthcare More Affordable Involves a Conflict of Interests
The booming medical industry is a lucrative sector to join, but as far as the people receiving the treatment are concerned, that boom is supported by making top-of-the-line healthcare inaccessible to a majority of the patients. Unfortunate as it is, it was found that healthcare in the United States is two times as much or more expensive than it is in any of the other developed nations around the world.
There is no sugarcoating the fact that it’s almost impossible for the average citizen to afford highly expensive healthcare facilities and treatments without proper medical insurance. Medical insurance, on the other hand, is not exactly cheap in the country either, which a lot of people are still finding hard to afford.
It is a troubling conflict of interest, which makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible for the government to change how things are at the moment. This would be quite difficult to manage without severely shrinking the humongous profits, jobs, and taxes which the healthcare industry in the United States is generating every year.
Even more importantly, the question remains, will it even be sustainable if America finally decided to make a switch and adopt universal healthcare, similar to almost all other developed nations? How will it affect the millions of people associated with the privatized industry?
It’s a step that has so far proven too big for any government to take, as a clear and present conflict of interest is the main obstacle here, which involves the interests of so many people from various economic classes of the society, that it isn’t a “rich vs poor” battle either, as it may seem initially.
Consider the fact that even with such lucrative opportunities in the healthcare sector, there aren’t enough professionals to manage the needs of the patients, with the demand-supply gap seeming to only get wider with time. If the financial lure were to be reduced by the state, would the industry still remain as lucrative as it is today? Will it further shrink the number of future medical and allied healthcare candidates willing to join it?
As is the rule with anything and everything, the bigger the gap is between demand and supply, the more it will cost. Therefore, unless the deficit of available and qualified medical professionals is met with a significant degree of success first, lowering costs might prove to be ineffective as well.