Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Healthcare is as complex an industry as any, and is becoming even more so. In efforts to “fix” the healthcare system, working in the healthcare field has become even more complicated. We suffer from a lack of coordination, gaps in communication, and failure at attempts to tie cost to quality of outcomes. Part of the complexity of the healthcare system is the number of players with skin in the game....government, insurance and HMO’s, patients, physicians and caregivers, care centers and hospitals, and pharmaceutical/biotech/and medical supply companies.
We live in a technological revolution, and there is no question that it is changing healthcare as we’ve known it. Medical drones have been designed to transport blood/ other lab samples/and donated organs, to provide first aid kits/cardiac defibrillators/ emergency medication/and disaster relief to isolated areas, and more. Robotic surgery, or robot-assisted surgery, allows surgeons to perform complex procedures with more precision and control than conventional techniques. Physicians have options including telemedicine, augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. Patients have access to more medical information than ever before through mobile apps and the internet.
Along with changes in technology and their effect on healthcare, we need to take into consideration a changing population. Within the next 10-15 years there will be 1.4 billion people more than 60 years of age, living mostly in Europe, the US and Asia. Dependency rates for older age groups are also expected to increase. We are living longer, but we are getting sicker. The number of seniors with four or more chronic diseases is expected to double by 2035, including hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, coronary heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart failure, depression, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It gets worse, though. The largest increase in diagnoses will be cancer, up 179.4%, and diabetes, up 118.1 percent. With all of the advancements in technology, we still do not have a healthcare system in this country; we have a disease management system. Most of the diseases we are trying to manage are lifestyle related and therefore preventable.
What if we worked to simplify medicine again? I am not denying the importance of technological progress within the field of healthcare, but I would like to argue we need more than technology to cure this epidemic. What about the importance of the doctor- patient relationship? What if doctors and healthcare providers were again given time to be with and listen to their patients?
“You have to understand what are they worried about, what are their fears, what are they trying to do? If we don’t engage with them that way, it doesn’t matter what technology we use.” ~Roy Rosin, Chief Innovation Officer, Penn Medicine
Another way to simplify medicine again is to better define what true health really is. According to Merriam Webster, health is “the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; especially freedom from physical disease or pain.” I would argue the World Health Organization has a better definition of health....“A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
In a quote from Dr. Mark Hyman, “Functional Medicine is the future of conventional medicine–available now. It seeks to identify and address the root causes of disease, and views the body as one integrated system, not a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialties. It treats the whole system, not just the symptoms.” For example, a plant requires sunshine, fresh air, water, and nutrients to be healthy and thrive and be productive. When it withers, we can diagnose the problem by attempting to treat the symptoms, or a master gardener will know to look deeper for the root cause of the problem and choose the treatment best suited to help the plant recover. What is important is learning how to reduce the risk and delay the onset of age-related disease. Our current system of medicine focuses on treating the symptoms, managing the disease, pain, and dysfunction. Speaking simply, we as living beings require sunshine, fresh air, water, and nutrients (and many would say laughter and love) to be healthy and thrive and be productive. What if as caregivers we had time to listen to our patients, foster the patient- caregiver relationship, and search for the root cause of disease, pain, and dysfunction? What if we addressed the interconnectedness of the mind, body and spirit and it’s impact on our health and well-being?
And furthermore, what if we worked together as a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, collaboratively treating our patients with both Western and Eastern medicine? Integrative Medicine is reality...a small movement steadily growing in momentum across the country....
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela
Breathe. Inhale hope. Exhale healing.
~Nicole Hutchison, Owner, CEO, Physical Therapist, CSCS, Health Coach, Integrative Nutrition Coach