People go into business for an opportunity to better themselves and their families. I believe it would be fair to say that no one develops a business plan which is designed to guarantee failure. But sometimes that happens.
Consider the company that manufactured horse-drawn carriages. Things are going along nicely, the company offers a quality product at a good price – and then along comes Henry Ford with that darn horseless carriage thing. All of a sudden a thriving business becomes a thing of the past.
If the business of medicine truly had our welfare at heart, it should be encouraging us to use their services as little as possible. A well-crafted wellness system would mean that we would rely on their expertise in the case of accidents, congenital conditions, some surgical repair work and very little else.
I realize that this will sound bizarre if you have the mindset that every time you have a sniffle you need to consult the man in the white coat with the stethoscope. But let me offer an example from one medical discipline which nearly put itself out of business. It’s called Dentistry.
As a child I remember going to the dentist in order to have a cavity filled. I still remember the sound as the pulleys turned the drill – that horrible screeching sound followed by the smell of burning calcium as the head made it’s way into my tooth. Like most people, I viewed a trip to the dentist’s office as an excursion into horror. We consulted the dentist because we had a problem – much in the same way we go to see the doctor today.
But dentistry evolved. It turned from being a reactive profession to a proactive one. It learned that we could easily prevent many of the problems that people of my generation experienced through a regular regimen: brushing, flossing, regular cleanings and checkups. Much of the practice today consists of routine maintenance and cosmetic procedures.
The number of cavities which are treated, thanks to these preventive steps, have declined by nearly 80% since I was a child. That’s good news for patients – not such good news for dentists. But they have adapted to the effects of their own good work and most of us are smart enough to see the dentist at least twice a year for our regular checkups and cleanings – and perhaps an occasional tooth whitening.
So if a proactive approach to dental health seems effective, why is it that medicine has not adapted the same strategy? I can only conclude that there are two reasons for this. The first is hubris and the second is money.
The fundamental premise of our approach to healthcare is to wait until a problem develops and then attempt to correct it. It is the exact opposite of what dental science realized was the most effective way to deal with dental disease – avoid it in the first place.
Then we treat the condition with a primary emphasis on doling out drugs, 90% of which do nothing to address the underlying condition but merely treat the symptoms of the condition – and most of which have side effects that are as hazardous to our health as the disease for which we sought treatment.
I suspect that if you were to ask anyone who is on a “drug therapy regimen” if they would prefer treating their symptoms or getting rid of the disease for which they are taking them, they would universally opt for the latter. But that is not what modern allopathic medicine provides.
So where does hubris come in? It begins with that little prescription pad that sits on your doctor’s desk. Only she can put down the magic words that will enable you to start on a life of servitude to the pharmaceutical industry. That gives your doctor a great deal of power which most of us lack.
As to the subject of money – there is no question that the root cause of many of our economic woes are generated by our healthcare system. Medicare and Medicaid are rapidly moving us to the brink of insolvency. That is not my opinion but rather the consensus of virtually everyone familiar with the subject.
There are many who want to attack the symptoms of the problem by reducing the massive amount of fraud in the system and that is a good first step. But that is merely a temporary fix applied to a system that is based on an illogical premise. The concept of waiting for disease to develop and then trying to treat it rather than the proactive approach of avoiding it in the first place simply doesn’t make sense – unless you’re a pharmaceutical company.
What would happen if we turned our emphasis to education and to implementing policies which would encourage people to eat nutritious meals, to engage in a regular program of healthful exercise and to avoid doing things that have been shown to be harmful to our health?
What would happen if our public schools only provided healthful choices in their cafeterias for our children at lunch?
What would happen if each of us took primary responsibility for our health and well-being?
I believe the answer is that over time, we could greatly improve our health and avoid many of the conditions with which we burden the medical system. We would need fewer doctors and fewer hospitals and fewer pharmaceuticals. And we would need to worry less about figuring out a way to pay for all of them.
Of course, the key to all of this is our assumption of personal responsibility. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of that going around in America today. We all have excuses which are mouthed by our political leaders and the man on the street.
Rather than embark on a long-term program of self-improvement we prefer the quick fix of popping a pill and thinking we will wake up the next morning looking glamorous and muscle-bound. Check out the infomercials on early morning television if you question the truth of that assertion.
Is there a way to begin on the road to wellness?
As a starting point, what if we got a rebate from our insurance company if we took an annual physical? What if we received a rate quotation from our insurer based on our personal use of the system – the more use the higher the premium and vice versa? What if the government subsidized nutritious foods reducing their cost and making them more appealing financially to the consumer – and taxed foods which were highly processed and contain little nutritional value?
(I do hate the thought of governmental involvement but they are already involved. At least we could redirect the efforts of some in the bureaucracy to something that would have long-term benefits).
There is a specific reason I began this post by talking about the advent of automobiles – because, like cars, our bodies are machines – though far less durable.
If we are negligent in our driving practices, exceed the speed limit, breeze through red lights or fail to maintain our vehicles properly, we are far more likely to be involved in an accident. We know this is staistically true.
If you have ever had a driver hit your car you know what ensues from that incident. You have to deal with claims adjustors, drive your car to a body shop, pay a deductible and rent a car. All of this is a hassle which could so easily be avoided.
In most cases, your car can be repaired. If the damage is too severe your insurer will “total” the car and then you have to deal with finding a replacement. And herein lies the difference between our car machines and our body machines. Bodies are one to a customer.
Dentistry has proven that prevention is far more cost-efficient than treatment. And it’s a lot more comfortable for the patient.
Isn’t it time that the medical establishment and the government got on the bandwagon?