The Future of Health Care Is Here, Now

Posted on November 7, 2008

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I have seen the future of health care.

Last fall, I got a flu shot at the Giant Pharmacy on Georgia Avenue in Olney. It was quick, convenient, and cost $35. The vaccination was given by a pharmacist.

Yesterday, I got a flu shot at the Francis Townsend Medical Center at 10th Street in Ocean City, Maryland. It was quick, convenient, and free. The vaccination was given by a nurse.

Atlantic General Hospital provided free flu clinics on seven different days in October and November. Clinics were held at the hospital’s main lobby in Berlin, and at Ocean City, Snow Hill, Pocomoke City, and Ocean View, Del. Were the free flu shots limited to senior citizens and high-risk populations? No. The free flu clinics were open to anyone age 13 and older.

This is the future of health care. It is health care available to anyone and everyone. No need to ask if it is possible; it is already being done.

The flu shots at the Giant Pharmacy and the Townsend Medical Center had several things in common. You didn’t see a medical doctor or do business with an insurance company at either place. The Giant Pharmacy was more convenient, because you could get your $35 flu shot just about anytime the pharmacy was open, seven days a week. For the Atlantic General Hospital flu shots, you had to show up at the time and place of the scheduled free clinics, which were well-publicized.

Was there a long line at the Townsend Medical Center? Nope, no line. A lot of onerous paperwork to fill out? Nope, in fact less paperwork than at the Giant Pharmacy. Which place had more comfortable chairs and was better set up to administer flu shots? Townsend Medical Center. Which place had easier parking? Townsend Medical Center. Which place was more easily accessible by public transportation? Townsend Medical Center.

Are the free flu shots cost-effective? My guess is that the free clinics will actually save money later this winter. We will save on treating people with flu and serious complications from the flu. Emergency rooms will be available to treat accident victims, not flu victims. We’ll save on lost days at work. Fewer people will die from the flu.

As President-elect Barack Obama and the new Congress consider health care reform, I hope they will keep in mind the model of Atlantic General Hospital’s free flu clinics. Cut out the insurance companies. Offer free health care for everyone at efficient clinics. Everybody in, nobody out.

People who think they need more convenience can still pay for private health care if they want. — Bernie Hayden

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