From Apathy to Agency: Self-Care Comes to Healthcare
Traditional healthcare, as personal and intimate as it should be, often happens to you. Not for you. And it most certainly doesn’t happen by you.
In fact, until now, healthcare that happens by you has been roundly criticized – self-diagnosing through WebMD, Googling symptoms, mixing up homemade remedies your oddball great aunt used to swear by – we’re warned off all of it and told: “just go see the doctor.”
But even in pre-pandemic times, the American healthcare system has made that simple directive so inconvenient and complex that many of us avoid it. According to a national poll conducted by the West Health Institute/NORC at University of Chicago in 2018, nearly 40% of Americans reported skipping a recommended medical test or treatment and 44% said they didn’t go to a doctor when they were sick or injured in the last year because of the cost. On top of that, you have to be able to get to the doctor’s office, at the time of day they dictate, during a month in the distant future when they can actually squeeze you in.
What this system has bred in the vast majority of us isn’t righteous indignation or revolt – it’s apathy. We’ve become passive to the notion of our own self-care. We’ve given up personal agency over our health.
Personal agency. It’s a concept that this year’s experience with COVID has thrust into sharp focus. We’re more aware of it than ever before because we’ve lost it, abruptly and drastically, from most areas of our lives COVID happened to us. And now we’re scrambling to regain the agency it stripped from us: how we live, how we work, how we socialize, how we care.
But COVID also conveyed agency in unexpected places – giving us the freedom and permission to make different kinds of decisions for ourselves. Where we can work from. Where we can live, no matter who we work for. Who we can work with, no matter where they live in relation to us. For the first time, for most of us, work can now exist outside of the rigid confines of a central office – outside of the bounds of geography altogether.
And for the first time, it’s become believable – and vital – that healthcare can exist outside the rigid confines of a medical office.
Your healthcare should happen by you. On your terms. On your turf. On your time. Your health is yours, not your doctors’. And now with the availability of quality technology and accessible information, it can be yours to responsibly manage day-to-day, month-to-month, year-over-year – in a way that’s intuitive and enjoyable enough to actually want to do it. As the effects of this year’s pandemic have further amplified the importance of taking care of our health and wellbeing, it’s no wonder that apps like Calm and Headspace remain popular among consumers, but increasingly among employers as well. And there’s absolutely no reason why this agency to steward all aspects of your health, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, can’t extend to the largest organ in your body.
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