Wow, 2020 is finally coming to a close! Many will be saying, “And not a minute too soon!” That is making the assumption that 2021 will be a better year than 2020.
Maybe it will be. I pray that it is. Certainly, we have endured many challenges and difficulties during 2020 that we hope are not repeated. Many changes that have taken place during this year that may become a permanent part of our culture.
I have decided to be so bold as to make some predictions for the upcoming year. We’ll see how accurate I am over time. Maybe we should save a copy of this article to review in 12 months to see.
Here are the predictions:
1. Most people you know will receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the first half of 2021. Right now, there are still a lot of people that are reluctant to take the vaccine. That is understandable, since so much of the information we have received about COVID-19 has been inaccurate, subject to change, politicized or otherwise not dependable. However, I predict that as time passes, the vaccine will be more widely accepted and most people will be able to receive it within the first half of the year.
2. Telehealth will increase significantly. When was the last time you actually saw your primary care physician in person? Over the past few years more patient encounters have been handled by mid-levels (nurse practitioners and physician assistants) rather than primary care physicians. During the pandemic another substitute for direct physician-to-patient interactions became more commonly called telehealth. This involves simply contacting your primary care physician’s office by phone, video or another electronic means to discuss your health status and receive recommendations or prescriptions. As patients have become accustomed to this, insurance companies have realized the costs are reduced substantially and this trend will continue to develop to become much more common.
3. Personal health monitoring technology will become more common, useful and affordable. Several years ago, as I sat on a panel of providers making recommendations about laws and rules for providers in Tennessee the question came up about who can order certain blood tests. At that time the medical device industry was already introducing devices for patients to be able to do certain medical testing at home. In the past decade this technology has developed significantly. It is already possible for patients to do their own testing for a range of possible conditions and either monitor the test results themselves or interact with their doctor’s office to coordinate care. This trend will grow substantially in 2021 as more devices will be introduced to allow consumers to perform more testing on their own by using smart phone apps or small portable devices.
4. Chronic health conditions will continue to explode. Unfortunately, the trend is for chronic health conditions to become a greater problem for the next decade at least. As a culture, we are becoming older, fatter, less conditioned and more poorly nourished. We can’t count on Marcus Welby, M.D., to solve this problem. I’m not speaking of anyone personally, but as a group our society has really created many of our own health challenges. Our lifestyle changes over the past 20-30 years have taken a toll on our health. Although the trend will continue to decline, we as individuals do not have to take part in this decline. Certainly, we cannot do anything about our aging, but we can make individual decisions about almost everything else that affects our health. Today is a great time to make a commitment to not follow the crowd in this particular situation. Make a commitment to improve your health in 2021!
5. More people will turn to so-called alternative healthcare for answers. Acupuncture, chiropractic and other alternatives to traditional prescription drug and surgery based medical care are growing like crazy. Consumers are seeking answers other than just another pill. People are actively looking for ways to avoid surgery and drug side-effects. More people have become aware of the advantages of acupuncture and chiropractic care especially in avoiding drug side effects and surgery risks.
6. The long-promised reduction in prescriptions drug costs will not appear. There is simply too much profit and politics involved. The pharmaceutical industry is much too big, too rich and too influential to be forced into a real reduction in overall costs. There will be noteworthy minor reductions that will make the news, but overall, the costs of prescriptions will continue to increase. The best thing a consumer can do is find as many drug-free ways to stay healthy enough to reduce his or her need for prescriptions. It is much easier and less expensive to maintain your health than it will ever be to treat serious illness.
7. Demand for mental health services will increase. Stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression and other conditions affecting our mental health are increasingly playing a part in our culture. Life is more challenging for many people than it used to be. 2021 will open more pathways for people to access mental health services as the need grows. Mental health and physical health are so intricately related that it will become more obvious in the next year that efforts must be made to address the whole person to impact health.
Well, there you go. Those are my predictions of trends we will see next year. I guess time will tell whether I am on the mark or not.
My prediction for Murfreesboro Post readers personally is that you will seek and find ways to positively impact your health in a number of ways. I will continue to do my best to bring relevant health news and beneficial suggestions each week in this column.
May you enjoy a Happy and Blessed New Year!
Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractic physician in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at mkestner@DrKestner.com.