For far too many years doctors have treated patients with chronic and life threatening illness by the ‘do something until we get it right’ method. What works for one patient, may not be effective for another. Already in trial cases, a more realistic form of ‘precision’ medicine, as proposed by President Obama during his State of the Unions speech, will save both lives and money.
Doctors call it ‘personalized medical care.’ The President has set aside $215 million in his annual budget to begin the institution of a more focused health care system.
Friday morning he was speaking to a room full of medical care professionals and some patients about personalized medicine. They applauded and cheered when he told them that it has bi-partisan support, which is rare in Washington, so it must be a good idea.
The $215 million will be divided between the National Institute of Health, ($130 million), the National Cancer Institute, ($70 million), and the Food and Drug Administration, ($15 million).
In the future treatment will be based on the genetics and lifestyle of each individual. There will no longer be a ‘one fits all’ approach. Private records will be kept from initial volunteers which will include biological samples, genetic information, and health records. These will enable doctors and clinicians to prescribe individual treatment plans and effectively target the core disease.
This approach has proven effective when used by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Using this personalized approach, and in concert with a major drug company, they developed a medical solution which aids four percent of those suffering from the disease. This treatment will increase the life span of the group from approximately 20 to 40 years.
The President also proposes changes in the Medicare system. He wants to halt the present ‘fee-for-service’ program. At the present, medical professionals are paid for the quantity of treatment, not the quality. Under the new system, physicians would be required to seek consultation from specialists in the field of a particular malady, as well as other experts related to the disease.
The medical profession has some concerns about the President’s proposal. There has been a gradual lessening of physicians choosing to practice in rural areas. Increasing numbers are joining with other medical professionals who have expertise in a variety of areas to form ‘medical groups’ which will comply with the new system.
The change will result in improved health care and millions of dollars in savings for the Medicare program.
Two years ago 13 physicians in McAllen, Texas, formed a ‘medical group.’ It is referred to as an ‘accountable care organization.’ In their first year they reported a savings of six million dollars to Medicare. Numbers of emergency room visits were reduced, as well as the number of admissions to hospitals. Hospital-related costs comprise the largest amount of Medicare expenditures.
The Affordable Care Act was a beginning to reform America’s failing medical system. These new proposals will allow the medical profession to more efficiently and effectively care for their patients, while reducing the overall cost of medical care.
By James Turnage