3 Ways Artificial Intelligence is Changing Healthcare

As the world adjusts to an inefficient and overpriced healthcare system coupled with an unstable economy, the healthcare industry is shifting from fee-for-service and reactive care. Providers seek to stay ahead of chronic diseases, prevent costly acute events, and mitigate the deterioration of patients’ health in the most effective ways. Unfortunately, shortages of qualified personnel, as well as skyrocketing costs, sometimes make this difficult. Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to bridge the gap between the limitations of medical providers and the patients’ needs. AI is also helping physicians be proactive and predictive. This technology is changing the landscape of healthcare by assisting doctors in diagnosing patients faster, monitoring patients’ health through wearable devices, and preventing the spread of infectious diseases.

Diagnosing Patients Faster

Artificial intelligence is easing the administrative workload by creating better interfaces between doctors and patient data, but it also helps providers diagnose patients faster. A significant trend in medicine is using AI in medical diagnosis to detect cancer. A recent study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that the AI system has a breast cancer detection accuracy comparable to an average breast radiologist.

Google says its latest research proves that a neural network can be trained to detect lung cancer symptoms earlier and faster than trained radiologists. AI-driven software can also accurately identify indicators of certain diseases in medical images such as MRIs, X-rays, and CT scans.

Having this technology at their disposal can allow doctors to diagnose and make treatment recommendations faster and more accurately. This ability fosters a better patient experience and, hopefully, a better relationship with their provider.

Monitoring Health Through Wearable Devices

From smartphone apps to Fitbits, several wearable devices enable people to track vital health data such as heart rate and physical activity. AI is being used to improve people’s health and well-being by helping them monitor weight goals and track fitness levels.

It also has particularly essential applications for the elderly population. Thirty to 60 percent of older adults fall each year, with 10 to 20 percent of those falls leading to injury, hospitalization, or death. Wearable fall detection devices can help the elderly receive the proper care in the event of a fall. These devices can be lifesaving if someone is unable to call for help.

As technology continues to evolve, and patients choose to share their health data with doctors, more wearable technology applications will be designed to prevent diseases and maintain health.

Preventing the Spread of Infectious Disease

Since the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Wuhan, China, epidemiologists have used a significant component of AI, machine learning, to track and prevent the spread. This technology has not only helped them understand more about the virus but also saved lives.

Machine learning is when a computer takes massive amounts of data and learns to detect patterns. This intelligence enables predictive analytics –the ability to predict future outcomes as well as reveal other insights about the data.

One such example is how organizations might be able to predict the number of deaths from COVID-19 for a specific gender over the age of 60. Countries worldwide used these predictive models to implement shelter-in-place and other strategies to prevent the spread of the virus.

For example, during the COVID-19 crisis, the city of Wuhan implemented AI to detect people with fever in large crowds with smart glasses worn by security guards. Bus and train stations also employed surveillance technology to check large groups of people without making contact. Although controversial, officials were able to safely and quickly identify people at risk of spreading the disease, which they wouldn’t have been able to do without using this form of technology.

As we move forward, innovators predict that current AI solutions in medical diagnosis, treatment recommendation, and infectious disease control will improve, and its applications in the field of medicine will continue to advance for years to come.

Prevention is the Best Strategy for Chronic Disease

According to the CDC, 60 percent of Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease like heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and diabetes. These and other chronic conditions lead causes of death and disability in America, and they are also a leading driver of health care costs—to the tune of $3.5 trillion per year. It’s even more sobering to realize chronic diseases are responsible for 70 percent of deaths in the U.S., killing more than 1.7 million Americans annually. When looking at the impact of chronic conditions, the proactive prevention of these diseases is truly the best strategy.

What is a Chronic Disease?

Chronic disease is a physical or mental health condition that lasts more than one year and causes functional restrictions or requires ongoing monitoring or treatment. Some of the more common conditions include:

  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Blood Pressure
  • Fibromyalgia
  • GERD
  • Gout
  • Hypertension
  • Thyroid
  • CHF
  • COPD
  • Depression
  • Diabetes

Being Proactive is Easier Than You Think

Stress, smoking, lack of physical activity, alcohol, and poor diet are significant contributors to the leading chronic diseases. Being proactive and screening for diseases before they start is one of the best ways to prevent chronic conditions. However, many people fail to establish a relationship with a primary care physician because they think they can’t afford it.

With mounting pressure from insurance companies to limit the time they spend with patients, many primary care providers also lack time to focus on proactive prevention and treatment options with patients. Fortunately, the direct primary care (DPC) model has grown in popularity recently. DPC shatters various healthcare barriers, including expenses that may have prohibited patients from getting primary care in the past. Also, DPC has given physicians the freedom to put patients first again.

Traditional models of health care address symptoms of a disease after it has escalated, but to prevent chronic diseases, we need a more comprehensive approach. This approach is where practical and consistent primary care comes in. By building an ongoing relationship with patients and their families, practitioners in a DPC environment can offer tailor-made solutions.

Primary Care is the Cornerstone

DPC providers have the time and resources to inform patients about their chronic disease risk best and improve their overall health. The idea of healthcare was always for doctors and patients to work together to improve health outcomes by being proactive rather than reactive.

Direct Primary Care offers members access to unlimited primary care visits for a low monthly fee. There are no insurance deductibles or expensive copays to meet. When a patient can spend as many sessions as necessary with their doctor, they can get to the root causes of chronic diseases without going in circles and racking up medical bills they can’t afford.

One of the many functions of primary care is to educate people on underlying lifestyle risk factors as well as create personalized prevention plans. Understanding a patient’s medical history, family history, and lifestyle helps doctors recommend resources, lifestyle changes, and necessary medication to mitigate or control symptoms.

Prevention is Best 

Exercising, proper nutrition, drinking less, and quitting smoking can provide health benefits and a greater sense of well-being. But establishing an ongoing relationship with a primary care provider is even more critical when it comes to preventing and managing chronic disease.

For more information on how DPC can help your clients manage and prevent chronic disease effectively and affordably, contact Healthcare2U.

Healthcare2U Launches Redesigned Website to Better Support Brokers, Employers and Members

Healthcare2U is excited to launch a redesigned website for benefits brokers, employers, and members who want to learn more about our barrier-breaking and cost-effective DPC solutions. In addition to a fresh new look, the site offers practical information, educational, and marketing materials along with a rich library of blog content and newsletters.

As an innovator in healthcare, we understand the importance of making information regarding our services and trends easily accessible for our current and prospective partners. We endeavor to provide our brokers and members with the most accurate, up-to-date information, and share our knowledge and expertise in direct primary care (DPC).

We Set Our Brokers Up for Success

Our redesigned website updated our broker portal! Brokers interested in effectively selling Healthcare2U’s DPC will find that product marketing materials and educational materials are organized more effectively. We have also separated the DPCplus collateral by product, so there is less confusion on product build and implementation.

NewPortal

The redesigned site is much easier to navigate and find the specific product information you need. It is a place for sharing expertise and getting personalized support from Healthcare2U because when you succeed, we succeed. Not only does the Partner Portal allow for adds and terms to be managed, but brokers can now submit requests to create customized plan designs with our Account Management team. You will get access to our product marketing expertise to get results faster and more consistently.

Our Partner Portal contains everything you will need to be successful with Healthcare2U products. And as always, if you have a special request, you can always email Broker Support with just a click.

Employers and Members Can See How DPC Pertains to Them

In addition to tools provided for brokers, employers seeking more information about DPC can now read more on how Healthcare2U reduces expenses for everyone. Our redesigned website is packed with information on cost-containment strategies and detailed information on each component of DPC:

  • Patient Navigation
  • Unlimited In-Office Doctor Access
  • Unlimited Urgent Care
  • Preventative Care
  • Unlimited Chronic Care
  • Unlimited Virtual DPC

Members seeking care for themselves or their families can easily find testimonials, membership benefits, and contact information. Connecting with our patient advocates has never been easier. Whether members want to schedule an appointment with a clinic in their area or want answers to frequently asked questions, they can quickly find everything they need on the new site.

Stay Connected and Well Informed

Among the new features, the site contains integrated social media buttons for Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to foster better communication with partners and a stronger sense of community. We are always updating our content with helpful information, thought leadership, company announcements, and client successes in the Blog, Press Releases, and Broker Material sections. You can also sign up for The Primary – Healthcare2U’s monthly newsletter.

 

Feel free to check out the new healthc2u.com. And if you have any questions about the benefits of direct primary care, email contact@healthc2u.com

 

Direct Primary Care Protects Employers’ Bottom Lines

Before the pandemic, healthcare spending was expected to rise by 42 percent between 2019 and 2028. According to a recent survey by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH)¹, large U.S. employers predicted their healthcare costs for 2020 would rise by a median of 6 percent without any cost management adjustments, and by 5 percent if cost management strategies were implemented.

If this year has taught us nothing, it is that things can escalate beyond your control very quickly. It’s already evident the costs of coronavirus testing and COVID-19 treatment will be high, reaching tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars. However, the estimates are incredibly varied because we are still in the midst of the outbreak.

Willis Towers Watson’s Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey estimates that due to COVID-19 testing and treatment, health insurance premiums could increase as much as 7 percent on top of the 5 percent increase employers previously projected for 2021. That is a 12 percent jump expected for employers if no cost containment initiatives are put in place.

Small Employers Take Big Hits

Health plan premiums and annual cost increases are often higher for small and mid-sized employers that lack the bargaining power of giant corporations. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, small businesses pay an average of 8 percent to 18 percent more than large companies for the same health insurance plans. It’s also not unusual for insurance companies to charge different premiums to small employers based on industry or the employer’s prior health claims.

With so much at stake for small business owners and the current economic climate, it has become increasingly crucial for benefits brokers to build benefits plans that can protect the bottom lines of employers of all sizes. One such strategy is Direct Primary Care (DPC).

How DPC Can Help

Direct Primary Care protects employers’ health plans by diverting claims for acute care, chronic disease management, and urgent care away from their health plans. Milliman, Inc. recently published a study called “Direct Primary Care: Evaluating a New Model of Delivery and Financing.” They found that DPC members visited emergency rooms 40 percent less over the course of two years. They also reported that DPC members were admitted to the hospital 26 percent less over that same two-year period.

The report estimated that direct primary care saved the employers in their study about 5 percent of total non-administrative plan costs. For a small business, savings like this can mean the difference between keeping the doors open or having to shutter them or lay off employees.

Adding direct primary care to health plans does not detract from other plan offerings—it enhances them. DPC is also straightforward to implement. With DPC providers like Healthcare2U, employers can maintain a healthier workforce with flexible enrollment options, excellent customer support, and a tailor-made benefits platform that works with existing carriers.

It is Time for Change

Increases to the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance premiums continue to outpace the inflation rate and employee wages. Between 2018 and 2019, inflation increased by 2 percent, and workers’ wages increased less than 4 percent, while the average individual premium increased by 4 percent, and the average family premium increased by 5 percent.

Large and small businesses know that if they do not make changes to their healthcare plans in the years ahead, their costs will continue to rise at an unsustainable rate. To keep their workforces healthy, safe, and able to work through these turbulent times, we cannot expect more from an already broken healthcare system. We can only ask for a change.

This time is pivotal for benefits brokers to present innovative solutions that reduce the projected health plan increases. To learn more about how direct primary care can make health plans more affordable, contact Healthcare2U. No matter the size of your client’s employee population, we have solutions that deliver actual cost savings.

 

¹ 2020 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey by the nonprofit National Business Group on Health (NBGH)

Doctors Love Direct Primary Care

The rising prevalence of burnout among physicians has raised questions on how it affects healthcare access, the quality of care, and patient safety. Doctors experiencing burnout or depression are more likely to leave a practice, which interrupts patients’ access to and continuity of care. In addition to taking a toll on the mental health of the practitioner, exhaustion can also threaten patient safety and lead to weak interactions with patients due to impaired attention, memory, and executive function. The causes of burnout include patient panels that are too large, administrative overload, and constraints from insurance companies. All these reasons are why doctors love direct primary care (DPC) and are turning away from the fee-for-service world.

Doctors Are Feeling the Pressure

It’s well known that insurance providers pressure doctors to limit their appointment times with patients. Over 50 percent of physicians in a recent study said they experience time pressures when conducting physical examinations. Nearly 33 percent felt they needed at least 50 percent more time than was allotted for this task. An additional 25 percent reported needing at least 50 percent more time for follow-up appointments.

High-pressure working conditions with little control of work pace directly correlate with physicians’ feelings of dissatisfaction, stress, and desire to leave the practice in some cases. In recent years, many have reclaimed the joy of practicing medicine by returning to the basics through Direct primary care (DPC). DPC has emerged as a life-changing alternative for three reasons. It allows physicians to eliminate or minimize interactions with insurance companies, it mitigates administrative hassles and restores the relationship between doctors and patients.

Freedom from Paperwork

While some doctors adopt a hybrid DPC model where they see some insured patients and some direct primary care members, some opt for a DPC-only practice. Being liberated from all the time and money spent filing claims and doing other administrative tasks related to working with insurance companies is an attractive perk for many.

One study found that for every hour a doctor spent with patients, he spent an additional two hours filling out paperwork for insurance companies. Some liken having doctors waste two-thirds of their time to having LeBron James spend most of his time selling game tickets instead of playing.

When there are no insurance providers involved, there’s no billing involved. This practice means less money spent on salaries for administrative staff. The freedom to choose whether to see patients with insurance provides greater peace of mind for some.

Making Patients the Priority 

By charging an affordable monthly fee for direct primary care membership, a physician can know what profits he’s going to make for a certain number of patients each month. This stability in revenue allows him to keep a manageable panel of patients. By eliminating the guesswork of how to remain profitable with an overwhelming number of patients (often in the thousands), doctors can save themselves from overworking to keep their business afloat.

And when he opts out of fee-for-service appointments, there are no limits to the time he can spend with patients. This factor is one of the main reasons physicians love direct primary care. It enables them to make patients the priority again. Many physicians lament going into medicine because they wanted to help people only to find their hands tied by bureaucracy.

 

The beauty of DPC is that it places control of the practice back into the doctor’s hands. Without time constraints, the physician can take the time necessary to dissect a patient’s medical history and find underlying causes of illness that may have been missed previously. DPC allows them to build a proper foundation and a long-term relationship with patients who feel like they’re finally seen and heard.

Is There Such a Thing as Balance?

Many people struggle to make their careers fit with the needs of their families. Work, children, and significant others combine to form a juggling act of sorts. Add to that personal development, self-care, health and fitness — many end up feeling like they fall woefully short.

Fitness, work, and family don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Even if you can’t add more hours to your already busy day, there are things you can do to achieve positive results. It’s unlikely that you’ll be perfectly balanced in all areas of your life at once. That’s an unrealistic expectation many place on themselves—one that adds more stress to an already full plate. Perhaps the key is being joyfully lopsided in any given moment.

Prioritize the areas that are important to you right now and shift priorities as necessary. By eliminating the pressure of having to measure up to others’ ideals, you can create a life that feels more balanced. Here are some ways to create a better equilibrium, even when life isn’t perfect.

Make Time for Family

The idea of having a family meal together seems like an impossible task for some, but dinner isn’t the only meal you can have with your kids or significant other. If it’s late when you get home, have a healthy bedtime snack with your kids and use it to connect. Don’t convey the stress of work. Reset and have a lighthearted conversation about the exciting highlights of your day.

If you can’t spend time with your spouse or your children every night, designate one night a week as a special night. Friday night can be Lego night or game night with the kids. Saturday can be a date night with your mate.

Exercise, nutrition, and family can also be combined for healthier bodies and relationships. Maybe your kids can ride their bikes along with you as you jog, or you can go hiking as a family. One weekend a month can be dedicated to teaching your teens how to cook healthy foods. Not only will they learn a valuable life skill, but teaching your kids about taking care of themselves and being healthy lays an excellent foundation for the years ahead.

Make Time for Yourself

You’ve heard the flight safety speech so many times you don’t even listen anymore, but you remember this above all else: If something goes wrong, put the oxygen mask on yourself before you try to help anyone else. You can’t help anyone else if you’re unconscious or dead.

The same rules apply to your life. You can’t be a good coworker, employer, spouse, parent, or friend if your physical and emotional well-being isn’t optimal. Fatigue, moodiness, and life-threatening diseases are just a few of the negative side-effects of eating poorly and not getting enough exercise, sleep, or waking rest. Experts say even a short period of repose can be just as beneficial for your health as exercise.

Five to 20 minutes of quiet, reflective thought that allows the brain time to consider and process whatever arises spontaneously is called waking rest. Researchers say doing this once or multiple times a day is a pillar of good mental and physical health.

Even if you don’t have time to meditate, you can still get waking rest while folding laundry, doing yard work, or walking the dog. Taking a relaxing walk during lunch or a break at work can give you time to process your thoughts so you can be more creative during the day and sleep better at night.

Nothing Just Happens

Achieving more balance requires strategy because the world around you never stops. If you feel like you’re swimming in the ocean with no land in sight, reflecting on what you value most and determining what works best for you is a valuable exercise. Bonding with loved ones, rest, and self-care aren’t things you do when you’ve finished everything else. If you want these things, you must build them into your daily life and fine-tune as necessary.

Men Visit the Doctor Less Than Women

A recent study by Cleveland Clinic highlighted the fact that there is a gender gap when it comes to medical care: men visit the doctor less than women. Of the men they surveyed, 65 percent said they avoid going to the doctor as long as possible. Seventy-two percent said they’d rather do household chores, like cleaning toilets, than visit a doctor.

It’s well known that early detection, treatment, and prevention of any condition usually leads to a more favorable outcome, but men see doctors way less compared to women. Why do men put themselves at higher risk by avoiding medical care or withholding the truth from their physicians?

Even after accidents, some men must be convinced by family members or paramedics to go to a hospital. A few theories suggest men are reluctant to seek treatment due to fear, assuming things will get better on their own, or superhero syndrome.

Fear of the Unknown

Many men cite fear of diagnosis as a significant reason they avoid doctors. In a 2016 survey, more than 20 percent of male respondents said fear of finding out what could be wrong was a roadblock to scheduling an annual exam. Unfortunately, this misguided aversion to being proactive about their health is contributing to the very things they fear most—illness and even death.

Delaying medical care could have dire consequences for some because there’s a risk of missing early warning signs of a severe condition. Pre-diabetes and other chronic diseases often have silent symptoms that only a doctor would recognize.

Things Will Improve on Their Own

Rather than seeking medical attention, men tend to get most of their support for health concerns from their female partners. Unless their partner is a medical professional, this isn’t the best strategy.

Men also tend to wait until there’s a specific problem they feel they can no longer handle on their own before seeking care. Most don’t visit doctors regarding general health concerns. While many say not having time is a factor, ignoring symptoms is a dangerous habit.

He Wants to Be a Superhero

In addition to having an uncanny sense of immunity and immortality, men also like to be in control. When put in situations that are beyond their expertise or comfort zone, the feeling of vulnerability is unbearable for some.

Cultural mores have led some men to believe they’re weak if they seek help for anything. Traditional views on masculinity support the belief that men should be strong and self-reliant. Add to that the notion that men shouldn’t show emotion, and you have a recipe for anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders on top of physical ailments.

Being Proactive Is Best

Waiting until symptoms become acutely painful or otherwise unavoidable is not a good health strategy. Men should meet with their primary care doctors to create a checkup schedule tailored to their health and lifestyle. It’s one of many reasons having a relationship with a primary care physician is vitally important. Your doctor can create an individualized plan with you to keep you on the path to good health and avoid serious problems like hypertension, heart attack, or strokes down the line.

Hidden Causes of Hypertension

High blood pressure, or hypertension, often has no symptoms or warning signs. This silent foe can harm your blood vessels, heart, brain, eyes, and kidneys. An estimated 46 percent of adults in the United States have hidden causes of hypertension. Unhealthy habits like smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise can combine to contribute to elevated blood pressure. Still, other lesser-known factors can contribute to this condition.

Commonly Overlooked Causes of Hypertension

Hypertension usually stems from arteriosclerosis, the hardening, and stiffening of the arteries, but it can also be a sign of other issues in the body. If you have resistant hypertension, it’s worth having your doctors check for a secondary cause.

A commonly overlooked source of high blood pressure is the breath-holding type of snoring known as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that increase blood pressure and strain the whole cardiovascular system.

Obstructive sleep apnea might also increase your risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heartbeats like atrial fibrillation. Treating it can improve blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health.

The trouble with Adrenal Glands

Some people with resistant hypertension have overactive adrenal glands. For about one of every 15 people with high blood pressure, an imbalance of the hormone aldosterone may be to blame.

Aldosterone is a key regulator of sodium and potassium in the body, but too much aldosterone (hyperaldosteronism) makes the kidneys retain too much sodium and water. When that extra fluid ends up in the bloodstream, it increases blood pressure.

A common sign of hyperaldosteronism is low blood potassium levels, which may cause symptoms such as weakness, heart rhythm abnormalities, and muscle cramps. People with high blood pressure and low potassium may need a blood test for aldosterone and renin, a protein made by the kidneys.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Some people with high blood pressure may have headaches, shortness of breath, or nosebleeds, but these signs and symptoms aren’t specific and usually don’t occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.

Other symptoms of extremely high blood pressure include:

  • Fatigue or confusion
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pounding in your chest, neck, or ears

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact a doctor immediately. You could be having a hypertensive crisis that could lead to a heart attack or stroke. Even if you aren’t experiencing these symptoms, experts recommend getting your blood pressure checked at least once every two years once you’re over the age of 18.

How to Control Blood Pressure 

A healthy lifestyle can play an essential role in treating high blood pressure. It could even help one avoid, delay, or reduce the need for medication. Here are some lifestyle changes you can implement to lower your blood pressure and suppress the hidden causes of hypertension.

  1. Exercise regularly – About 30 minutes most days of the week can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg.
  2. Lose excess weight – You may reduce your blood pressure by about 1 mm Hg with every 2.2 pounds of weight lost.
  3. Consider boosting potassium – Talk to your doctor about the level of potassium that’s best for you as it can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements.
  4. Reduce sodium in your diet – Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can improve heart health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg.
  5. Reduce stress – Make time each day for breathing exercises and enjoyable activities or hobbies.

Talk with your doctor about how often you need to check your blood pressure, especially if you’re making any changes in your medications or other treatments. Getting support from family and friends can also help improve your health and reduce the threat of hypertension. They can be the allies you need to choose a beneficial path of eating healthier and exercising more.

Solutions for Anxiety and Depression

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people suffering from anxiety and depression is increasing globally. The number went from 416 million in 1990 to 615 million as of 2013. Feeling a little down from time to time is a normal occurrence but solutions for anxiety and depression are needed. Anxiety is a normal response to occasional stress at work or our daily lives, but constant feelings of depression or anxiety can be a red flag of a mental health disorder.

Sometimes referred to as ‘first cousins,’ depression and anxiety are different conditions but often occur together. Some researchers believe early trauma causes subtle changes in brain function that account for symptoms of depression and anxiety. The key brain regions involved in the stress response may be altered at the chemical or cellular level, including fluctuations in the concentration of neurotransmitters or damage to nerve cells.

Causes of Anxiety

Financial worries, added responsibilities at work, or other major life events can cause certain levels of temporary anxiety, but some people are more prone to developing anxiety disorders than others. For example, children or adults who have experienced traumatic events or endured abuse of any kind also have increased the risk of developing anxiety disorders.

Symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
  • A constant sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Difficulty controlling worry

In addition to emotional risk factors, several medical conditions can cause anxiety. They include:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism
  • Respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
  • Chronic pain
  • Rare tumors that produce certain fight-or-flight hormones
  • Drug misuse or withdrawal
  • Withdrawal from alcohol or other medications
  • Side-effects of certain medications

If you experience a sudden occurrence of lasting anxiety that seems unrelated to life events, it could be a sign of a more serious medical condition, and you should speak with your doctor.

Causes of Depression

Symptoms of depression can range from moderate to severe enough to impede day-to-day activities such as work, school, social events, or relationships with others. Some people may feel generally sad without really knowing why.

To say a chemical imbalance causes depression doesn’t capture the complexity of the situation. Research suggests there are several possible causes for depression, including genetics, faulty mood regulation by the brain, stressful life events, medications, and other medical problems. Often several of these forces collide to bring on depression.

One of the goals of gene research is to pinpoint how biology makes certain people vulnerable to depression. For example, several genes influence the stress response, which makes people more or less likely to become depressed in response to trouble.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Memory difficulties or personality changes
  • Physical aches or pain
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Often wanting to stay at home, rather than going out to socialize or doing new things
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor or mental health professional as soon as you can. If you’re feeling suicidal, there are resources available to help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Finding Solutions for Mental Health

If you’re experiencing prolonged symptoms of anxiety or depression, part of practicing self-care is speaking to a medical professional about it. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, a faith leader, or someone else you trust.

In addition to seeking treatment, there are natural things you can do to better your chances of recovery. They include:

  • Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and olive oil
  • Raising endorphin levels through exercise
  • Herbs such as St. John’s Wort, ginseng, lavender, or chamomile
  • Spending time with animals
  • Writing
  • Meditation

It’s essential to speak to a doctor before using any herbal remedy or supplement. Making lifestyle changes, such as improving sleep habits, increasing social support, or using stress-reduction techniques, may also help. If you have anxiety or depression, avoid alcohol, smoking, and recreational drugs. They can make both conditions worse and interfere with treatment.

The Importance of Primary Care

It seems the number of Americans with primary care providers (PCPs) is shrinking. Part of it is due to economic disparities and other barriers to care. In fact, 50 percent of Americans say they put off getting healthcare because of costs. But there’s also a growing number of people who don’t understand the importance of primary care and how to use the healthcare system most effectively. As of 2019, just 67 percent of millennials had a primary care physician, compared with 85 percent of baby boomers.

Most people don’t know the complexities of their health and wellness. Often people ignore warning signs in their bodies until something drastic happens, at which point they rush to the emergency room or urgent care. The problem with treating the E.R. like primary care is skyrocketing costs for the patient and their employer if they have health insurance. Without health insurance, medical bills can quickly overwhelm anyone.

Having primary care helps patients get effective care by helping them to be proactive about their health. To that end, direct primary care (DPC) has come to the forefront because it provides affordable access to disease prevention, chronic disease management, and 21st-century convenience for a generation that never slows down.

Prevention Saves Lives

PCPs can screen for many ailments, including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. They also review immunization records and help keep patients and their families up to date with shots and other preventative measures.

Studies show that people who utilize primary care have better health outcomes, including lower rates of all causes of mortality. Researchers found noticeably lower death rates from heart disease, cancer, or stroke, infant mortality, low birth weight, and poor self-reported health in areas where people sought care from primary care physicians.

Building an ongoing relationship with a primary care physician and their team empowers people to take control of their health. Having a support system and a wealth of knowledge they could never get on their own assuages fears or unfamiliarity that might prevent some from getting life-saving care. Having someone to tell you when something’s not quite right or advise you to see a specialist can prevent illnesses from developing or worsening. In the event of being referred to a specialist, this knowledge and familiarity help personalize your care and save time that may have previously been spent explaining medical history.

Chronic Disease Management

A primary care provider is responsible for screening all major health-related conditions. If you already have a chronic disease, your PCP helps manage it and improve your quality of life. Unfortunately, some health plans don’t accept people with preexisting conditions. This alienates a large segment of people, as approximately 133 million Americans, over 40 percent of the total population, suffer from chronic diseases. That number is projected to grow to an estimated 157 million, with 81 million having multiple conditions.

People with preexisting conditions are the ones who need care the most, but with insurers turning many away, some can’t afford quality healthcare to keep their disease from escalating. This is just one of many reasons direct primary care memberships have become so vital.

DPC memberships accept people with preexisting conditions and make the managing of disease much more affordable. With a plan like Healthcare2U’s My Direct Primary Care Plus (MyDPCplus) for individuals, members get unlimited treatment and management of 13 chronic disease states for a $10 visit fee. Now people who desperately need care can finally get it.

Twenty-first Century Convenience

Even before social distancing due to coronavirus, Millennials were leading the charge toward technology-driven healthcare. Studies show the benefits telemedicine and virtual care are not lost on millennials and Gen Xers. These generations are more likely than baby boomers to report that a telemedicine option is “extremely or very important.” Forty percent of millennials say telemedicine is an extremely or very important option, compared with 27 percent among Gen Xers and 19 percent among baby boomers.

As part of a direct primary care membership, telemedicine or virtual care is available to members 24/7/365 at no cost. This benefit was a game-changer during the pandemic and will continue to expand in the years to come. The convenience and affordability this benefit provides is much appreciated by people who are busy but still value quality healthcare.

How DPC Can Help

The misconception among many is that one can’t have access to quality primary care unless he has insurance. In fact, one study found a 40 percent increased risk of death among the uninsured. However, in the age of Direct Primary Care (DPC), this no longer has to be the case.

DPC is a monthly membership that provides affordable and convenient access to excellent primary medical care, wellness, and chronic disease management for a low monthly fee. DPC has become extremely important in recent years for those who don’t have health insurance and even those who do. Some High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) require patients to pay high copays and deductibles for care, which puts routine healthcare out of reach for some.

A DPC membership can be combined with an HDHP, so the employed or unemployed can visit a primary care provider for little to nothing. With the onslaught of lay-offs and a global pandemic in recent months, people are looking for solutions to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy without breaking the bank.

 

For more information about how DPC memberships can provide quality care for employees and individuals, contact Healthcare2U.