A well-known saying goes like this: prevention is better than cure. And it has proven to be true over the years. But what does this mean in the healthcare sector, specifically?
As the global population lives longer, more people develop chronic diseases. Not only do these diseases lower the quality of life of an individual, but the treatment can also become expensive. Research suggests that 70% of annual deaths in America alone account for 86% of the health cost. Therefore, preventive healthcare measures can revitalize the crumbling financial situation of the American healthcare sector.
What is preventive health care?
Preventive healthcare does not merely focus on existing conditions. Instead, it takes a holistic view of the health of patients. According to the World Health Organization, preventive healthcare (prophylaxis) is an area of healthcare that can prevent diseases and illnesses before they develop. The overarching goal of preventive medicine is wellness.
Most of the procedures from the doctor’s office can be called preventative health care measures. Procedures like physical examinations, screenings, and testing can provide insights to catch illnesses in the early stages.
The expanding role of nurses in healthcare:
In recent years, preventive health care has become more popular amidst rising healthcare costs and human resources shortages. Nurses as leaders can make a positive contribution to disease prevention because of their multidisciplinary knowledge. Furthermore, nurses often spend the most time with their patients. So, they are more attuned to their needs. Indeed, they manage 80% of the patient care provided by doctors. They are aware of the needs of the community and can advocate public policy development. Therefore, they can provide valuable insights into policy development.
Nurse Practitioners are specialists in holistic health care, and courses such as online DNP programs can uplift their careers. Through one-on-one dialog, NPs can bring transformative change in the lives of patients.
The three stages of preventive healthcare:
There are three levels of prevention: primary, secondary, and tertiary.
According to the United States Preventive Services Task Force, primary prevention measures focus on patient knowledge. Nurses educate patients and inform them about methods to prevent the development of targeted conditions. It may include encouraging the use of seat belts and immunization campaigns. Primary prevention is the most economical healthcare method.
It is the early disease detection phase. Nurses screen patients with regular care to prevent early-onset diseases. This strategy can severely diminish diseases such as COPD and cancer. By this time, the illness has already occurred. So secondary prevention is all about early detection and cure. Some basic diagnostic methods of preventative medicines are:
- Skin cancer screenings
- Genetic studies
- Diagnostic laboratory tests
It is the last stage of disease prevention after the disease has manifested itself. Also known as damage limitation, tertiary prevention focuses on limiting consequential damage. Chronically ill patients need to improve their quality of life through rehabilitation and medical intervention.
The value of routine screenings:
Routine screenings are necessary for the early detection of chronic diseases. The screening tests can vary from person to person, depending on their persona characteristics. Nurses can play a vital role by advocating early screening to patients and the community at large. According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, routine screenings for High Cholesterol and Diabetes can aid in early detection of asymptomatic chronic diseases.
Promoting Healthier Choices:
NPs can also guide people to make better choices in their daily lives for a better tomorrow. It may involve:
- Regular Exercise:
Experts recommend 30 mins of moderate activity five days a week. This single change can improve blood pressure and minimize the risk of contracting diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
- Weight Management:
Being overweight can increase the risk of developing heart disease and reduce lifespan. Being underweight is also harmful since it can lead to osteoarthritis. Therefore, it is vital to manage weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
- Quitting Smoking and Drug Abuse:
Smoking is injurious to health as it increases the risk of cancer and emphysema. Therefore, NPs can educate people about the evils of tobacco. Furthermore, they can inform patients about coping strategies for drug addiction.
- Moderate Alcohol Intake:
Early screening tests for alcohol-related diseases can prevent significant chronic illnesses.
- Controlling Existing Conditions:
As mentioned previously, preventative healthcare can identify existing healthcare conditions before they manifest. Therefore, nurses can minimize the effects of specific illnesses.
Providing Access to healthcare:
The average patient is unaware of the details of their healthcare plans. Therefore, they may unwittingly ignore preventative services due to a lack of knowledge. Furthermore, some patients avoid going to the doctor since they fear high costs. This fear is not unfounded as hospital costs can run into thousands of dollars. NPs can counsel patients about their health plans and connect them with service providers. As caseworkers, they can help patients and their families navigate the complex world of health care.
Nurses are best suited for the role of health promoters due to their experience and knowledge. Not only this, NPs have the technical know-how, and they also have the experience to grapple with the challenges of community health. Furthermore, patients prefer NPs over physicians to provide them with comprehensive care. One study found that 80% of their sample felt NPs listened to their needs and helped patients resolve issues.
NPs can play a significant role in addressing health inequalities through on-ground health education and prevention. Since most health institutions based in low-income neighborhoods are understaffed and overextended, healthcare prevention can be a valuable strategy for controlling diseases.
Patient needs are changing, and the health workforce cannot shift from hospital care to preventative healthcare. Experts believe that NPs with specialization in primary care can provide comprehensive services to patients. By doing so, they can also reduce the burden on the healthcare system. But there are many impediments to this nurse skill-mix change. The biggest problem is the issue of regulatory barriers, such as licensure laws and policy controls. The first step to preventative health begins with doing away with these impediments.