Youth for Positive Change talked to Linh Doan Vo about her book, "The Healthcare Conversation" and how to advocate for a more equitable healthcare system.
Hey Linh! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today. First off, would you mind describing who you are and what your book is about?
My name is Linh Doan Vo and I am an upcoming third year Biology major and Asian American Studies minor at UCLA, pursuing a career in the medical field. My book, The Healthcare Conversation, is about understanding how to navigate the health system in order to become a smarter, better-informed patient consumer. The main goal of my book is to empower readers to take their physical and financial well-being into their own hands. The Healthcare Conversation strives to tackle questions that have puzzled Americans for years on topics, such as payment models and insurance, the political nature of the system, the vital role of patients and physicians, social determinants of health, etc.
What inspired or motivated you to write the book?
Great question! Initially, it started off as an individual project. I wanted to learn more about the field that I was entering into. But as I began to research the subject, I discovered injustices in our health care system that I felt had gone unspoken of for far too long. Over time, the project became a book journey as I felt it was important for me to share my knowledge and findings with other patient consumers. By writing this book, I hope to spark a dialogue on how we can, as a country, best improve our healthcare system.
Healthcare in the U.S. has become a divisive issue, with politicians and lawmakers all having different opinions on how the healthcare system should be run. In your opinion, how do you believe it should be run?
Currently, American healthcare functions as a fee-for-service payment model, which means that medical entities are reimbursed by third-party insurance companies, the government, and individuals. A major problem we've seen with this payment model is that medical payments are dependent on the quantity of services provided, causing there to be little incentive for medical providers to deliver high quality, value-based care to patients. There have also been statistics that show that fee-for-service payment models have led to the fragmentation of unnecessary visits and services. Many Americans are disgruntled by the ever-increasing prices of medical bills and allotment of the government’s budget to healthcare (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.).
While I am not an expert by any means, I believe that alternatives from other countries need to be explored and considered by our politicians and elected leaders. One alternative that looks particularly promising is a hybrid of single-payer and pay-for-performance schemes. This system would be ideally achieved through the restructuring of Medicare For All. So-called single-payer systems include universal coverage for citizens as well other forms of private insurance. Pay-for-performance systems attempt to fix the problem of fee-for-service models by reforming financial incentives of doctors to keep patients healthy and rewarding health entities for positive post-care results and other proactive health measures. For anyone interested in learning more, this is an issue that I explore in Chapter 4: Reimbursement Systems and Payment Models of my book.
What, in your opinion, are some of the major issues plaguing the U.S. healthcare system?
While there are many major issues that are negatively impacting the healthcare industry, I think the major ones are the overall stagnancy of the system, lack of price transparency and inability for many Americans to access quality medical care. Healthcare prices are higher than ever before and keep increasing each year. This further contributes to the exclusiveness of the healthcare system and means that those in socioeconomically deprived conditions are unable to access equitable healthcare. In order to make this system more inclusive and better holistically, I believe that we need to remove some of the capitalistic and political ties from big, private companies in healthcare.
Now more than ever, we need increased government intervention and regulation of the healthcare system. Without proper interventions and safeguards that protect patients, the prices of medical procedures, drugs, and other necessary services are dictated by big companies that can exploit the needs of the consumer market. With additional regulations in place, patient consumers can then advocate for price transparency.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to young changemakers who want to improve the healthcare system?
Know. Your. Facts.
As young minds take on the challenge of navigating such a complex system, it is imperative that they educate themselves about their patient rights and exercise those rights accordingly. Trade in brand medications for cheaper, generic alternatives. Demand transparency from your providers in your course of care. Switch from out-of-network to in-network hospitals in order to avoid unnecessary out-of-pocket costs. Ask for justifications behind your insurance co-pays and premiums. Only when we feel comfortable asking questions we don’t know can American healthcare truly work for us.
What are three tips you’d give to budding young writers who wish to take on topics as vast as healthcare but don’t know where to start?
My first tip would be to explore literature, abstracts, and relevant academic material on the topics you are interested in exploring. I believe it is super beneficial for young writers to become familiar with the work that is being done in the field they are interested in to ensure that they maintain professionalism and “writing poise.”
My second tip would be to reach out to health professionals, book writers, and people who have stories about their personal experience with the healthcare system! Often, inspiration can be found where and when we least expect it. In addition, one of the perks of being a young writer is that many older people are willing to help a developing mind.
My third tip would be to steer away from anybody who tells you that writing about the healthcare industry is too daunting for someone your age. Although their intentions may come from a good place, remember that only you can determine what you are capable of achieving.
Finally, where can those who are interested buy your book?
There are multiple websites to buy my book from: Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and Ingram. I also have extra books available from my last book bulk order, so if you are interested in getting a copy, you can private message me on Instagram @linhnout and we can set up packing and shipping preferences. Paperback books specifically ordered from me will include a signature and an exclusive sticker!