Forget Congress, change THIS about our healthcare system!

Posted on February 15, 2010

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No wonder people don’t go to doctors with regularity. And why they may let themselves get really, really sick before going to see a doctor. Who would want to take part in “preventative” health care visits with your doctor when the entire experience is a disaster because of the abysmally poor running of many doctors offices. It became very clear to me this weekend one thing that our country could fix that would make such a huge impact in the overall quality of our health care is address how individuals are sometimes treated within doctors’ offices.

(*This post is not going to lump all doctors together, just like I don’t like getting lumped into the same category as those personal trainers who are rep-counters, muscle-heads, or slacker trainers. There are many kind, caring doctors who lead well-run practices. This post is simply calling attention to what needs to be a serious part of the improvements we’re seeking in our healthcare system. Ok, that should cover my butt, moving forward…)

Raise your hand if you’ve had a really crappy experience at a doctors’ visit. Yeah, that would be just about everyone. Rude office staff. Unbelievable wait times. Doctors that spend less than 5 minutes with you for an entire visit – and then ensure they shove free samples of prescription drugs in your hands before you go. Doctors who may or may not listen to your concerns. Extremely confusing billing statements (partially the fault of the insurance companies that force the doctors to bill whatever they can however they can in order to get some kind of repayment).

Why would anyone want to keep up with their check-ups, their yearly physicals, or even determine if something seemingly small now is worth checking out before it turns into some real issue when it’s such a headache to go through it all? I spent part of the weekend getting to learn in a chiropractic clinic training seminar, and sit in on the doctors’ learning sessions. This training was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced with any physician. The doctors are trained to spend a great deal of time with the patient at the onset of them beginning a healing & then maintenance/wellness program with the chiropractor. After learning all the steps a good chiropractor follows to assess the patient, develop the treatment plan, and review it with the patient – we watched a film depicting how it should all go when done in practice. It was absolutely amazing. The care, the time, the real action plan put in place for the patient & doctor to embark on together….it’s what’s healthcare should be. 

If every doctor who truly was out to improve the quality of their patients lives followed these techniques, we’d have patients who fully understood their conditions & how to work out of them. Patients would know how to act to avoid becoming obese, sick, and broken. They would feel empowered by a team-approach action plan put in place by their doctor to work together to make sure the person knows how to reverse the diabetes or prevent high blood pressure, for example.

Maybe doctors can’t spend such quality time with patients because they feel pressured to meet office statistics that are unmanageable. Maybe they feel that is out of their “scope of practice.” Either way, it returns us to the very root of this issue – that physicians are part of the problem when they show up for lacking personal appointments with their patients, when they send their patients on their way not knowing if or how it would be possible for them to get off the Rx drugs they have now been put on, and even when they create an environment that puts any patient on edge before they even walk in the door.

Again, there are some that seem to be the exception to this rule – but they seem to be few & far between. Dr. Oz is a great example of a doctor who follows through on ‘complete care’ with his patients. He won’t even operate on someone who’s a smoker!

If you have a doctor who is fully engaged in finding long-term solutions for your health & wellness, you are a lucky one. You must have a physician who was trained by doctors of the old days, like the kinds you read about in books & see in old movies – the house call doesn’t have to happen in the home anymore – that same bedside manner can be provided in the office. Office staff can provide a warm, welcoming environment that puts patients at ease rather than stressing them & making them feel like a burden for even being in the office (something I’ve experienced at several doctors offices). Doctors can work with patients to discuss short & long-term care plans. It can go farther than just a 5 minute check of the vitals & a few questions to ensure the patient isn’t terminal right then and there. 

Now, that does not change the necessity of a strong focus by each person to be their own health advocate. No, there really is a fair amount of self-empowerment that needs to happen to make this country healthy, fit, well & to ensure people don’t go broke trying to get & stay healthy. Working out, eating right, spending money on things that make you healthier, and not on things whose side effects are worse than their benefits, or that will outright kill you in the long-run, despite their in-the-moment pleasures – these are a few of the broad measures we can all take to have a better healthcare (& less burdened) system.

These things would all go farther if all doctors fully supported care plans that move patients not just away from disease, but toward a life of optimal wellness. It goes back to the eternal questions, would you rather thrive? or just survive? Which would our healthcare system prefer we do? At this point, the latter seems to be the prevailing goal, and that, is a scary thing.

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Posted in: optimal health