An (Early) Ounce of Prevention is
Worth a Pound of Cur(v)e
The dire need to address Complex Chronic Disease, healthcare’s ‘hidden rising risk’, and how early disease detection using Ai can help bend the cost curve and its impact on disease burden.
Three point five trillion dollars.
3.5 trillion dollars.
There is one category of disease that can be crowned the leading driver of the nation’s annual healthcare costs of 3.5 trillion dollars. Any guesses? In honor of the late Alex Trebek.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the term chronic disease is broadly defined as a condition that is sustained over the long term, requires ongoing medical attention, and/or limits activities of daily living. In the United States, the prevalence of chronic disease is astounding:
Some of the most common chronic diseases include heart disease, cancer, kidney disease and diabetes, which are also the top leading causes of death and disability.
The term for the financial cost of illness for individuals, households, and societies is Disease Burden (DB). This seemingly innocuous phrase has been used for decades to represent the costs associated with disease, but upon closer inspection, the term also tactlessly parades the notion that those struggling with a disease are a burden. Instead of the term disease burden, we prefer the objective phrase ‘cost of disease’ (CD). Complex chronic disease is evidently the biggest contributor to this overall cost to economies. Identifying and understanding the factors influencing the cost of disease for a population, allows us to prioritize the human aspect of healthcare and create personalized care regimens rooted in early diagnosis.
The statistics illustrating the status quo are staggering. However there is a silver lining to all of this: about a third of chronic diseases are preventable. The solution exists in early diagnosis and detection of rising risk patients-- identifying who is on a downhill trajectory of disease progression, and how healthcare providers can intervene through a system of proactive care. Imagine the potential health and economic impact that could result from this approach. People who were previously hindered by a disability could join the labor force along with those who were previously responsible for providing full-time care to family members. Additionally, older adults might choose to delay retirement due to their sound health, and employees with chronic diseases that interfere with job-related tasks would be able to better focus while working. Better health stimulates the economy by expanding the labor force and boosting productivity, while simultaneously providing social benefits for the entire population to partake in.
According to McKinsey, preventative measures aimed at reducing the cost of disease could add up to a 10 percent boost to US GDP in 2040, an increase of about $3 trillion (McKinsey). At SAANS health, we have identified that Fourteen percent of the population exists in this limbo of ‘pre chronic condition’ or what we like to call the ‘Hidden Rising Risk’ population (HRR). This subset of the population has the potential to greatly increase the cost of disease if not proactively cared for, but also has the potential to significantly boost the economy if correctly addressed. This HRR group could be the difference between severe economic strain or significant economic growth. Using Artificial Intelligence (Ai), we need to start looking at actionable insights that help early identification of disease onset, allowing timely diagnosis and the scope for a more personalized care approach. By leveraging real-world data and predicting implications on cost associated with chronic disease treatment and care, we can look where our biggest health challenge lies.
Almost 300 years ago in the year 1736, Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and the same holds true in the year 2020. The healthcare industry has spent too much time and too much money trying to keep up with treating diseases that constantly evolve, it is time to recalibrate our strategies and critically address the ‘hidden rising risk’ factors to prevent it from becoming healthcare's next biggest challenge . SAANS health is determined to help health leaders with early disease detection and diagnosis. Let’s stay ahead of the cost curve and plan for a successful implementation of a ‘Prevention over treatment’ strategy, which is rooted in member health advocacy and powered by Ai and Machine Learning.