Most Americans miss out on preventive healthcare

(Reuters Health) - Very few U.S. adults receive all the preventive health care services recommended for them, reports a new study.

Researchers looked at survey data from nearly 2,800 people over age 35 and found only 8 percent were getting all of the highly recommended preventive services with the greatest potential for improving health.

The survey included questions about the receipt of 15 high-priority preventive services including blood pressure and cholesterol checks, screening for osteoporosis and several cancers, counseling on tobacco use, obesity, alcohol use and depression, plus vaccinations and aspirin use.

People should expect and deserve to receive all of the recommended preventive services appropriate for them, said Amanda Borsky of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in Rockville, Maryland, who led the study.

“Some of the commonly known reasons for not getting the recommended preventive services include lack of health insurance; lack of a usual doctor or nurse; and problems with health care delivery including wait times in clinics or doctors’ offices,” she said.

Adults can ask their doctor or health care professional what preventive services are recommended for them based on their age, sex, and medical history, said Borsky.

But given how much improvement is needed, she said, “the solution will require system-level quality improvement efforts.”

“The good news,” she noted, “is that more than 20 percent of adults reported receiving more than 75 percent of the recommended services. This shows that improvement is possible.”

Some services were frequently received. The rate of blood pressure screening was close to 90 percent, for example. But less than 40 percent of eligible respondents received the shingles vaccination, the research team reported in Health Affairs.

“For the most people to benefit from preventive care, the health care system needs to work together to encourage innovation on how care is delivered, how we can use new technology, and how we can tailor improvements to meet the needs of local communities,” Borsky said.

Borsky believes leaders at health systems and health care practices should measure their own rates of preventive services provision and create solutions targeted to their own needs.

Dr. Michael Munger, a family physician in Overland Park, Kansas and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, believes family physicians must strive to make sure patients are staying on track with their preventive health services.

“We recognize that it can be a challenge, but certainly it’s something that we as a discipline are really trying to focus efforts on, make sure that patients are getting all of their clinically appropriate preventative services,” Munger, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters Health in a phone call.

Munger said patients themselves should take an active role, reach out, make sure they’re getting the preventative services that are aimed at maintaining and improving their health.

“It really is crucial that . . . patients take an active role in their overall health because the more that they do, the healthier they’ll be and they’ll have a much more rewarding life,” he said.

SOURCE: Health Affairs, online June 4, 2018.