Recently, we blogged about the importance of hospitals taking a proactive stance in patient education to combat the healthcare-related misinformation spouted by politicians and celebrities. You may prefer to focus on disruptive innovation in healthcare—the sort that will generate meaningful, positive change. But if the current debates are an indicator of what to expect, you’ve got 390+ days to withstand—and combat—the disruptive force of presidential hopefuls expounding on healthcare issues. Are you ready? Here are just two of the issues that have popped up.
Autism and Vaccines
During the September GOP debate, two frontrunners made the news when the topic of autism and vaccines came up.
- Donald Trump, who always speaks his mind, if not actual fact, echoed his previous statements associating autism with childhood immunizations, saying “Autism has become an epidemic—25 years ago, 30 years ago you look at the statistics, not even close.” He then mentioned an employee whose child was diagnosed with autism shortly after getting vaccinated. His statement is hardly founded on science. The original study that was a catalyst for the anti-vax movement has been debunked, and numerous studies since have indicated no link between vaccines and autism.
- Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson contradicted Trump, saying, “We have extremely well-documented proof that there is no autism associated with vaccinations.” However, he went on to say, “It is true that we're giving way too many in way too short a time and a lot of pediatricians recognize that.” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) indicated such claims endanger public health and a more spread-out schedule of vaccines only increases risk to the child.
Certainly, autism is diagnosed much more frequently now than in the past, but experts suggest that the prevalence of autism is more likely due to shifting definitions and increased awareness about the disorder. After all, before Leo Kanner identified autism in 1944, there were zero cases. Twenty years later, Kanner wrote that once autism was defined, “almost overnight, the country seemed to be populated by a multitude of autistic children.” What’s more, 10 years ago, both England and Japan instituted a delayed schedule for the DTaP vaccine for prevention of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. The result was a substantial increase in pertussis diagnoses in both countries and an immediate switch back to the previous schedule. Unfortunately, anti-vax consumers are more easily swayed by celebrities than science, and for now, the presidential hopefuls fall into the celebrity camp.
Replace, Revamp or Rescind the Healthcare Law
While the Supreme Court decision this summer was supposed to put to rest the issue of whether Obamacare is here to stay, it’s clear that the presidential candidates do not believe the case is closed. According to an article in the News Observer, candidates from both parties are weighing in on the healthcare debate, with three clear options:
- The Single-Payer Plan. Vermont Independent/Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders has advocated for a single- payer plan for years, and it’s definitely part of his campaign stump speech. Surprisingly, Donald Trump also espouses a single-payer plan—sort of, maybe—but details are sketchy. He did say in his 60-Minutes interview that “I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”
- Affordable Care Act 2.0. Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton doesn’t want to upset the current apple cart, making small changes to the existing Medicare, Medicaid and ACA legislation.
- Repeal. The majority of Republican presidential hopefuls are focused on undoing the existing health law, and in fact, several have expressed the desire to tackle Medicaid as well. So far, all are keeping mostly mum about Medicare.
What’s that mean for hospitals and other healthcare providers? More confusion among healthcare consumers, and possibly a slow-down in more valuable disruptive innovation in healthcare as everyone tries to figure out what’s in store when a new President of the United States is sworn in on January 20, 2017. In the meantime, with more debates on the way, you need to prepare to do damage control to ensure that healthcare consumers are educated with facts, not fiction.