Educating citizens about healthcare to reduce spending on healthcare services

Implications of such rising healthcare costs are serious for families who bear entire costs of healthcare from their own pocket. According to a WHO report, in India citizens pay more than 80% of their healthcare costs "out-of-pocket". In a country like ours where most of the population do not have any safety net for covering their emergency healthcare expenditures, large payouts on such situations affects other aspects of citizens' lives, often driving them into huge debts. Particularly, the number of visits to emergency healthcare providers has increased worldwide over the past several years (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 (source http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jrts344crns-en)

In fact, very recently few of my own close relatives have ended up incurring big expenses for handling medical emergencies. In one of these cases the situation, I believe, could have been avoided had my relatives been more diligent and more aware about managing their healthcare issues. I know several such cases where lack of awareness about simple healthcare matters costed very dearly to the families.

When talking about big expenses on healthcare by an individual the scenario most often is either of an accident (road accident, fatal fall etc.) or of the sudden detection of a life-threatening/incurable condition such as an advanced stage of cancer, renal failure etc. I think situations such as accidents are random and one has little control on those. However, the other scenario where one is faced with a sudden or "unexpected" detection of an incurable/life-threatening condition is something which should be preventable. I am one of those who believes that serious conditions such as cancer, liver and renal failures etc. are not developed overnight. It takes long enough time for those conditions to become unmanageable, and thus giving good enough time to the patients to take corrective steps. Very few of us get our periodic complete physical health checkups done. Majority of us are unaware of a basic knowledge about symptoms and management of high-impact health conditions.

I believe that if our policy makers somehow ensure that:

  1. Every citizen gets his/her complete physical health checkup done at least once every six months, and
  2. Attends a healthcare awareness program once an year and passes a basic exam based on it,
then a significant number of lives can be saved and a huge amount of out-of-pocket spending by families on healthcare can be avoided. Such preventive steps will also reduce the pressure on public hospitals and save the poor from getting ripped off by private hospitals.



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