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True Prevention: Health Care Heal Thyself

Clearly the medical care landscape is changing.  Legislative battles, cost-containment, managed-care, quality measures, cost shifting, physician accessibility and a host of medical-legal pressures are changing the way medicine is delivered.

Increasingly, I field questions from patients expressing concern about future care.

Healthcare Relevancy/Value

The medical community, now more than ever, should focus their efforts on maintaining relevancy for patients.   As costs go up and access goes down, patients now more than ever need “Real” medical advice.  Instead of managing medications, checking boxes, ordered tests, I advocate for more discussion of “True Prevention” measures.

True Prevention Measures

True prevention measures are time-tested medical truths–Not drug company tweaked literature or faux research which leads to the prescribing of yet another medication to treat symptoms rather than causes.

True Prevention:

  • Instruction in accurate nutrition: Spreading the vital knowledge that the modern diet contains too much processed sugar, additives, and chemicals which destroy our health.  The key problem is SUGAR NOT FAT.  Physician’s should encourage whole food nutrition, buying local, fresh ingredients and massively less grain based food consumption.  If people avoided soda and processed sugar our healthcare demands/costs would decrease 50% nationally.
  • Fitness:  Spreading the key message that nearly “Any” physical activity improves health.  Regular physical activity has more research than any drug study ever created showing positive benefits in conditions ranging from depression to Cancer.  True prevention = counseling patients to get moving.  Physicians should not just talk about exercise but make specific recommendations and following progress, not just pay lip service.
  • Attention to Poly-pharmacy:  Medication overuse and combination use remains a very important area physicians can provide true prevention for patients.  I have blogged on this topic in the past.  (Hazards of Poly-pharmacy)  Medications care save lives yet real health doesn’t come from a bottle. Responsible, conservative usage however is lacking.  Doctors routinely give medications treating symptoms, only to add additional medications to treat side-effects caused by the original script.  This leads to tens of thousands of deaths yearly and countless complications, not to mention cost.  I advocate much more conservative prescribing habits and a greater reliance on nutrition / lifestyle attention.
  • Stress Management:  My clinical experience suggests this may represent the medical “Holy Grail.” Stress underlies so many medical problems that I cannot underscore the importance enough.  Lifestyle management, stress reduction, and recognition that our daily experiences change how we behave, how our hormones respond, and in turn the medical conditions we suffer.   Attention to stress and honest discussions between doctor and patients provides huge preventative value. (What is stress?)
  • Personal Responsibility:  In my opinion, empowering patients to understand they can improve health outcomes by their own actions is huge.  Our entire system of medical delivery hinges on the premise that you cannot adequately treat/impact health issues or prevent disease. YOU require an “Expert.”  For the vast majority, attention to these TRUE PREVENTION points combined with personal responsibility = massive disease prevention possibilities and a huge win-win for patients and payers.

I encourage my colleagues to spend more time discussing the above topics.  Patient’s will appreciate the honesty and the commitment to solving problems not simply treating symptoms.  I encourage everyone in healthcare to shift primary focus from sick care to prevention / well care.

As always, your comments are welcome.

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