Challenges Facing Healthcare in the United States

Future Challenges Facing Healthcare in the United States
Former President Barack Obama on healthcare, Sept. 9, 2009. What are the challenges facing healthcare in the United States? (Photo: Public Domain)

A future of high quality, effectiveness, and efficiency is aimed for the healthcare system. However, many issues remain today. The healthcare system is plagued with high costs, incomplete coverage, and declining or stagnant quality, among other issues. Nonetheless, reforms are implemented over time, such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as more recent regulations. The effects of technology, ethical challenges, and the international condition of healthcare also shape the future of healthcare in the United States. These issues affect the success or failure of the system. Legislators and administrators must address these future challenges facing healthcare in the United States.

This article examines the most difficult issues, technology impacts, international healthcare implications, and ethical challenges in the future of healthcare in the United States.

Issues Facing Healthcare in the United States

Three of the most difficult issues facing healthcare in the United States today are the rising cost of healthcare, shortage of primary care professionals, and disparate international standards on healthcare. These issues remain unaddressed and lead to lower effectiveness and quality in the US healthcare system.

  • Rising cost of healthcare. The rising cost of healthcare remains a top issue that is yet to be effectively addressed. The cost of healthcare has continued to rise over the years. The increasing costs do not necessarily correspond to higher quality.
  • Shortage of primary care professionals. The shortage of primary care professionals is partly due to the low number of new doctors and nurses competent enough to replace retiring doctors and nurses. This shortage can lead to problems in the accessibility of healthcare services. Accessibility depends on the availability of these professionals. The shortage of medical professionals can lead to declining quality and effectiveness in the healthcare system.
  • Disparate international standards. Different countries have different healthcare policies, standards, and programs. The disparity impacts the health of individuals in the US. For example, poorer healthcare standards in other countries make it more difficult for the US to address the international spread of diseases. The US and other advanced countries need to spend more for their own protection because of the lower healthcare standards of other countries.

Technological Impacts on Healthcare

Technology has an important role in advancing the goals of the healthcare system. Technology adoption leads to changes in healthcare quality and effectiveness. Some of the ways technology impacts healthcare are as follows:

  • One of the impacts of technology on healthcare is through information sharing. This is the result of the increased use of information technology in healthcare organizations. Better information sharing supports faster collaboration and access to information necessary for providing effective health care.
  • Technology also impacts healthcare through information processing. Through advanced computing devices, the healthcare industry supports faster analysis and decision-making in healthcare services.
  • Technology improves healthcare by way of continuity of care across the healthcare industry. Information systems and networks used in healthcare organizations help give healthcare professionals access to valuable and accurate information about patients even when these patients come from other healthcare organizations or providers.

International Influence on the U.S. Healthcare System

Healthcare, at the international level, impacts the United States healthcare system. A current movement is the improvement in international standards used in healthcare systems across the world. As healthcare becomes more globalized, more healthcare services from different countries will be available internationally. International competition in healthcare will increase as countries adopt improved standards.

As the world becomes more homogenized in healthcare standards, the high costs of healthcare in the U.S. will likely drive Americans to access healthcare from other countries. This condition will inhibit the rising demand for healthcare services in the United States. Economic theory suggests that the buffered demand will lead to cost reduction in the U.S. healthcare system. Healthcare providers will be compelled to reduce prices or fees because of international competition.

Future Ethical Challenges in Health Services & Healthcare Reform in the U.S.

Considering the changes in the healthcare system, there are ethical challenges regarding the future of health services and healthcare reform in the United States.

Healthcare reform in the United States attempts to provide greater coverage, ideally universal coverage. However, the country has not yet fully universalized the healthcare system. This situation is linked to various factors, including limited resources, legal issues, and public concerns on healthcare spending. This condition also brings the ethical challenge of providing healthcare coverage that includes undocumented immigrants. Inadequate healthcare coverage for undocumented immigrants leads to higher probabilities of the spread of disease in the country, which comes with additional costs for disease control and prevention. The government must fulfill two important duties: to provide universal healthcare coverage and to protect public financial resources. Either way, costs are incurred.

Privacy and confidentiality remain ethical challenges. The popular use of information technology in healthcare leads to issues linked to the easier use of digital devices to collect and share confidential information with people not directly involved in treating patients. These behaviors are unethical and against protocols. However, violations remain, and these technologies are seen as tools for committing such violations. The healthcare system must implement reforms to address these ethical challenges relating to patient rights.