What now?

Health literacy

I recently announced my departure from Advanced Tissue after almost two decades spent building the company into one of the most important vehicles for patient-focused healthcare in the United States. Our success was inextricably linked to a dramatic increase in patient demand – or more accurately, patient need – resulting from our disastrous diabetes epidemic.

You can see this reflected in changes in the shape of our economy since the turn of the millennium. One in nine private sector employees now work in healthcare. In Ohio, to take one example, there have been 332,000 lost manufacturing jobs since March 2000, but 238,400 new healthcare jobs created. Business is booming, and that’s no bad thing. But we should all be deeply concerned by the underlying drivers of this growth.

Most significantly, health literacy is at an all-time low. One in three people living in the US today only have a basic understanding of their health. Many Americans refuse to see their doctor, even when experiencing potentially life-changing conditions – and those who do forget 80% of the information their doctor has given them by the time they reach the parking lot. Some people point the finger at the medical profession or our education system. Others blame the patients themselves. What we do know is that the cost of healthcare has become a runaway train, and this cannot go on.

That’s why I am not ready to vacate the field just yet. I am drawing on the insights and knowledge I have gained, and relationships built, over 35 years in healthcare to undertake a range of global activities focused on creating better understanding at the patient level. I’ve seen an overwhelming reaction to the ideas and actions I have been putting forward in meetings from New York, to Los Angeles, via London.

It’s time for someone to step up to the plate and make a difference to the lives of patients who haven’t had the support they so desperately need, up until now. Watch this space.

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