Healthcare Workforce Shortages cannot be Resolved unless Self-Care is Taken Seriously

“Other industries, like travel, banking, entertainment, publishing, retail et al have built successful business models on the premise that their consumers—armed with needed information—engage directly in decisions and actions consonant with their self-interests. In so doing, fewer workers are required, replaced by technologies and online tools that are customized to their individual needs and preferences.

In healthcare delivery circles, self-care is dismissed because diseases and treatments are deemed too complicated thus “consult your doctor” or “visit the ED” are the default. That’s the problem: the health system is staffed to the presumption that most consumers are incapable of acting rationally about their healthcare and its associated costs. Jealously guarding the trustworthiness of its physicians, nurses and pharmacists, the status quo leans into paternalism toward patients and staffs accordingly. It’s understandable: the economics of the health delivery system are built on B2B (business to business) trading relationships; consumers are an afterthought in most settings.

It is activation of self-care that disruptors like Amazon, CVS and Alphabet are betting on to right size the healthcare workforce. They recognize that reduced health spending must address two systemic flaws: high unit costs for prescription drugs, medical visits, hospitalization and workforce productivity. Studies by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Office of Technology and Productivity have consistently shown much of what the workforce does can be done by individuals for themselves and optimized using technology-enabled CRM (customer relationship management) methods to deliver real-time directives on demand. This applies to as many as 40% of visits to primary care providers for whom an office visit is unnecessary, diagnostic screening tests that can be administered and interpreted dependably, and much more.

Self-care has been defined as “any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated.” In health delivery, it involves actions taken by individuals to maintain their health and wellbeing and/or treat a condition without direct intervention or unnecessary intervention with providers. It’s fundamental to how Gen X, Gen Y and Millennial consumers critique the health system and increasingly the basis for how they choose their providers.”

Full article, P Keckley, The Keckley Report, 2022.8.8