Future Challenges Facing Health Care in the United States

Future Challenges Facing Health Care in the United States
President Barack Obama on health care, Sept. 9, 2009. What are the challenges facing health care in the United States in the future? (Photo: Public Domain)

A future of high quality, effectiveness and efficiency is aimed for the health care 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. The effects of technology, ethical challenges, and the international condition of health care also shape the future of health care in the United States. These issues affect the success or failure of the system. Legislators and administrators must address these future challenges facing health care in the United States.

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

Most Difficult Issues Facing Health Care in the United States Today

Three of the most difficult issues facing health care 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 of the US healthcare system.

  • Rising cost of health care. The rising cost of health care 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 health care Accessibility depends on availability of these professionals. The shortage of medical professionals can lead to declining quality and effectiveness of the health care system.
  • Disparate international standards. Different countries have different health care policies, standards and programs. The disparity impacts the health of individuals in the US. For example, poorer healthcare standards in countries like Mexico make it more difficult for the US and other countries to address pandemics involving Mexico. The US and other advanced countries need to spend more for their own protection because of the lower health care standards of other countries.

Ways Technology Impacts Health Care

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

  • Technology impacts health care through information sharing. This is the result of increased use of information technology in healthcare Better information sharing supports faster collaboration and access to information necessary for providing effective health care.
  • Technology impacts health care through information processing. Through the use of advanced computing devices, the healthcare industry supports faster analysis and decision-making in healthcare
  • Technology improves health care by way of continuity of care across the health care 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 health care organizations or providers.

Impact of International Health Care on the United States Health Care System

As the world changes, how will health care at the international level impact the United States health care system? A current movement is the improvement in international standards used in healthcare systems across the world. As health care 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 health care standards, the high costs of health care in the U.S. will likely drive Americans to access healthcare from other countries. This condition will inhibit the rising demand for health care services in the United States. Economic theory suggests that the buffered demand will lead to cost reduction in the U.S. health care system. Healthcare providers will be compelled to reduce prices or fees because of international competition.

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

Considering the changes in the health care system, what are the ethical challenges of the future in health services as it relates to health care reform in the United States?

Health care reform in the United States attempts to provide greater coverage, ideally universal coverage. However, the country has not yet fully universalized the health care system. For example, the system is forced to not properly accommodate illegal immigrants based on limited resources, legal issues, and public concerns on healthcare spending. This condition brings the ethical challenge of choosing between providing universal health care coverage versus providing healthcare coverage only for citizens and legally documented immigrants. Not providing health care coverage to illegal immigrants leads to higher probabilities of the spread of disease. Illegal immigrants could get sick and spread disease if not treated. If illegal immigrants are not accommodated, more funds must be allocated for disease control and prevention. The government must choose between two important duties: to provide universal health care 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 health care leads to easier use of digital devices to capture photos or videos of patients, and to share confidential information to people not directly involved in treating the patient. These behaviors are unethical and against protocols. However, violations remain and these technologies are seen as potential tools of committing such violations. The health care system must implement reforms to address these ethical challenges relating to patient rights.