The challenge is this: in a survey of physicians, 46 percent reported that they frequently or sometimes feel unsure of what to say to patients on this topic, and 29 percent report having had no formal training specifically on talking with patients and their families about end-of-life care. With about 72 million Americans reaching the age of 65 by 2030, that is a lot of very expensive and painful uncertainty for patients/consumers/human beings who want to die comfortably and with dignity.
By the way, in case you are wondering what people are dying from, see the chart below. I'm not going to get into the 3rd category here as I will save it for a future blog; let me just say I would be pretty pissed off if, while dying of a hospital-caused medical error, I got a bunch of medical treatment forced on me that I didn't want when I could be home in my bed, surrounded by my vast collection of shoes.
So what are we doing about this challenge as a nation? With the floodgates open on this topic, venture-capital firms and angel investors are now backing companies that are providing products and services to improve the end of life process in a way they never have before. Perhaps they are just relieved to be diverted from dying valuations to dying people, but investors are finding that death offers that big market we are always talking about. Companies like Vynca, CoPatient, and Aspire Health, among others, are all focused on changing a bitter end to a better end.
And now, with Palin safely tucked away, some of the nation's biggest thinkers are getting in on the action. In just the last two weeks I have seen significant innovation challenges launched by IDEO and Sutter and another by the Aspen Institute. Each of these is seeking better methods, products, and approaches to easing end of life. The IDEO/Sutter challenge has this headline: "Let's re-imagine how we prepare for, share and live through the final chapter." Both of these challenges close on June 1, 2016, so if you have something to add to the conversation, get cracking before time runs out, so to speak.