There is a health crisis in America. No, this time I am not going to talk about obesity or ADD or any other specific health issue. I want to know when the practice of medicine became void of any joy and the pursuit of health became a painstaking journey, with patients searching for answers and doctors stuck in conventional ways of thinking, relegated to the role of prescription writing, procedural expertise, and Band-A ids for symptoms.
If one more doctor asks me what integrative medicine is, I will scream. If one more patient has to hear that something they are experiencing is in their “head,” then we as doctors need to go back to our classes on bedside manners. We are the patient’s advocates. I know, and trust me, I get that many people are demanding, have unrealistic expectations and cannot be satisfied. But, like my mother always said, “two wrongs don’t make things right.” The doctor-patient relationship is sacred and unique. Everyone else needs to get out of the way.
The specialization of medicine and the insistence that every therapy, every tool available to us has to be subject to multiple, artificially-constructed studies is limiting the options for doctors and patients. Medicine did not begin with double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies. We should do what works. The beauty of our current system is that the aggregate of research, procedures and technology helps us know what works for most people, most of the time. For the outliers, answers become more elusive.
The move of medical training and education away from nutritional healing, activating the body’s mechanisms of healing and learning from older and alternative systems of medicine is costing us, as we all know. There is money to be saved in evaluating patients more critically, widening our focus as physicians and educating all the other intermediaries on the ultimate cost-savings benefit.
We need a system that works for doctors and patients. As we prepare for the transition to Obamacare, we need to start preparing for the next shift in medicine: finding hope by living healthy naturally and educating all physicians and patients in the best way to blend multiple systems of medicine, expanding all of our options.
How do we get there? We have to be good doctors, and we have to be great patients. Every action call requires an action plan — I think I know where to start.
Action Plan for Doctors:
- Listen to your patients.
- Do not dismiss symptoms.
- Argue with insurance companies when needed.
- Do not dismiss another doctor’s work.
- Find and understand natural remedies that may heal your patient and understand your patient’s chemistry,function and genetics.
- Lobby for change; change in education, reimbursement and expanded time with patients.
- Find hope for yourself and your patients. Do not let the system drain your vitality, energy and promise. Leave a room smiling and hopeful. We, as physicians, are not in control of everything. We are merely messengers and educators.
Action Plan for Patients:
- Understand yourself and your symptoms. Be clear and concise. Until we have a new system, most doctors are pressed for time.
- Create a symptom list with an accompanying timeline to present to your physician.
- Create a 24-hour or three-day food recall. Your diet does impact your health, don’t let anyone tell you differently.
- Do not resort to the quickest fix — learn about all your options and use your doctor to determine both long and short term healing.
- Do not accept that your current state of health will never change. Do not play the victim. The body has an infinite capacity to heal.
- Build a team of doctors, family members and communities that support your health.
- Understand the cost-savings to you when you invest in diet, lifestyle and stress management.
Moving forward, let’s change American medicine. We can be better doctors and better patients. Together, we can change how medicine is practiced in this country and shift focus to living healthy naturally. Together, we can find hope.