You Know Your Carbon Footprint. What About Your Health Fingerprint?

We've all heard about carbon footprints and how we--personally and as governments or corporations--should take responsibility for being a Big Foot, for doing the ...
April 24, 2009
 

We've all heard about carbon footprints and how we--personally and as governments or corporations--should take responsibility for being a Big Foot, for doing the right thing to diminish our negative impact on the environment. San Francisco even has a special Web tool to help you--and the city--measure that footprint.

But what about our impact on the high cost of health care? Are there steps we could take--either in our personal lives or as state and local governments--to make sure we use health care as though it were a finite and precious resource? Only question is, how would we measure our health fingerprint?

One could be overuse or duplication of services. Not just the stuff electronic medical records would presumably clear up, but all the expensive stuff that's ordered by physicians or demanded by patients that isn't really necessary. A lot of us never question our doctor's about whether the MRI or the stress test is just a comfort to have or is really needed. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and NPR found that "half of the public believes the American health system has a 'major problem' with patients receiving unnecessary tests and treatments."  Could we help cut down on our health fingerprint by asking more questions about why a test needs to be run or a Rx filled?

Another could be lifestyle and wellness--the things we could do to prevent the onset of a chronic condition or ease negative incursions into our health profile. A lot of insurance programs and state health plans are emphasizing wellness. There are ways to measure what we're doing--or not doing--to keep ourselves healthy?

A third could be getting educated about price and quality comparisons. The Kaiser-NPR study reports that "patients generally do not ask about the costs of medical or lab tests they receive. Only 22 percent say they have done so in the past two years." There's a lot of information available on online, and several states have made efforts to provide Web sites that offer comparative value--on price and quality--of hospitals and, in some cases, physicians. Couldn't we cut down on our fingerprint by pricing around for non-emergency procedures and medications?

Just thinking out loud. Got any other ideas about health fingerprinting? Does it make sense? Could it--or should it--work. Is there any value in it?

 

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