We don’t need statistics to know that often, the most important healthcare decision-maker is Dr. Mom (AKA Dr. Wife, Dr. Sister, Dr. Friend, Dr. Daughter, Dr. Daughter-in-Law….). Perhaps you are one of them. If not, you know one. Women, mostly, are calling the shots when it comes to caring for loved ones.
We’re often the first, and last, caregivers. That makes us the gatekeepers and eventually, the clean-up crew. We do so much for others we often forget about ourselves (in case you didn’t know, women’s medication adherence rates are lower).
Our decisions are cost drivers; In fact, we make 80% of health care decisions and so, determine lots of spending.
In Why She Buys, Bridget Brennan outlines just how much of the rest of the economy is controlled by women; we influence purchases of 80% of autos and trucks, 91% of homes and 61% of consumer electronics. Some companies are adapting to this reality.
Ryland Homes, for example, designs and builds for the life a woman leads. Its homes have a window at the kitchen sink so she can watch younger children in the backyard as she prepares dinner in open-plan kitchen-family room while supervising older children doing homework…oh, and with the laundry going and her laptop open, responding to emails.
Well, we’re not “there” yet in health care. Not nearly. More women are in the workforce, complicating daily living. Have children or get divorced, and life gets more complicated still. Get sick and life graduates: from complicated, to living hell.
The Affordable Care Act will offer some improvements to those women who can’t get insurance, but insurance is not care and care is not woman-friendly. Laws only go so far, this one is not going very fast and even if fully implemented tomorrow is not enough.
I’ll propose some things to be more woman-friendly:
• Policymakers: Create a no-excuses, all-out, full-court press on access to primary care. Trash traditional ways of providing care. Expand practice roles to allow “extenders” into the market and “amp-up” telemedicine. Require extend hours so that women don’t need to lose work to seek care for themselves and others. Yes, that’s a heavy lift. It will take time. That means there’s not a moment to lose. Start now.
• Pharma-, physician- and other provider-focused policy friends: in your policy positions STOP talking about how your constituents need incentives to do what they do. It’s a despicable description of reality and it’s untrue. I know from far too many people who complain to me that it erodes the trust and confidence Dr. Moms want to have in health care providers. It’s a rationale unworthy of those who actually do the work of healing.
PLEASE be more precise. Incentives? To provide the good care associated with developing needed medicines? To provide good care in hospitals? I don’t believe doctors, hospitals or drug companies need more incentives. What they need policymakers to do is remove the barriers to providing good care and to eliminate the disincentives created by ill-informed policies.
As I watch my own physician gain weight, get weary, get cynical and burn out, it’s not because she lacks incentives. It’s because she’s practicing in an increasingly hostile climate created by policies put in motion in places far from her exam room.
• Providers of medicines and care and payers of services: communicate what you do to women in real-life terms that matter to them. They are where the “practical rubber” meets the health care road. See life through our eyes.
A number of years ago, a pediatrician told me that chicken pox was not a serious disease and prevention was unnecessary. Dr. Mom colleagues disagreed. They’d experienced the work and household disruptions of kids home sick for a week.
For many years, until pharmacies started giving flu shots (thank you, pharmacists!), nurses at my doctor’s office discouraged me from getting flu shots. As the owner of a small business, I don’t get paid sick leave and a serious illness impacts not only me, but clients and employees.
Want to address the future of health care? Start with the real Drs: Mom, Wife, Sister, Friend, Daughter, Daughter-in-Law …