KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Old-Fashioned Time And Fitness Heal With Less Cost

Watchful waiting and wellness programs can be cost-effective. 

Many patient ailments can be cured by "plain old-fashioned time. But it's often the hardest medicine for patients to take," The Wall Street Journal reports. "An estimated one-third to one-half of the $2.2 trillion Americans spend annually on health care in the U.S. is spent on unnecessary tests, treatments and doctor visits. Much of that merely buys time for the body to heal itself." Treatments that temporarily relieve symptoms add up "to a considerable amount of spending: $5.4 billion annually on cough and cold remedies, $2.7 billion on headache remedies and $411 million on chest rubs and other analgesics, according to Nielsen Co. Americans also spend an estimated $1 billion on unnecessary antibiotics that don't even relieve the symptoms of viral infections, and contribute to antibiotic resistance."

"[S]ome patients resent paying for a visit when all the doctor provides is reassurance that they'll get better with time." And it can also be time-consuming for the doctor. "Explaining why a medication or CT scan or MRI isn't necessary, or what signs to look for if an ailment isn't getting better, often takes more time than writing a quick prescription" (Beck, 9/22).

The Dallas Morning News reports that "[a]s the nation grapples with taming health care costs, local employers are finding wellness programs to be their own makeshift health reform solution." Making "proactive reforms," such as on-site health screenings and trainings with cash incentives, can yield "immediate savings" (Roberson, 9/22).

The Plain Dealer reports that at the Cleveland Clinic, patients like Terri LoPresti, a over-weight, diabetic with high cholesterol, are being helped with fitness and lifestyle changes. LoPresti "shelled out $1,500 of her own money to join Lifestyle 180, a 9-month-old Cleveland Clinic program aimed at people with common chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (including high blood pressure and high cholesterol), diabetes, breast cancer, active-surveillance (slow-growing) prostate cancer, fatty liver disease and multiple sclerosis. Lifestyle 180 tries to teach a better way to live: healthier eating and cooking, improved fitness and strategies to de-stress. The program is part of the Clinic's recent efforts to be a national leader in promoting wellness and to shift some health care focus from treating disease to preventing disease through healthy habits" (Spector, 9/22).

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