Time to take responsibility for your own healthcare

This New Year I want to start a tradition to help us all apply the following statement to our health:

“The absence of intervention doesn’t necessarily kill us.”

The author of the statement is Malcolm Gladwell. He wrote the best-sellers The Tipping Point, Outliers and most recently What the Dog Saw, a compilation of his articles for The New Yorker. I’m a big fan of Mr. Gladwell. He has a brilliant way of analyzing, distilling and presenting information that is so well balanced, it helps readers feel validated, in the know and ultimately more confident.

The problem with our healthcare system is that people like Mr. Gladwell aren’t doctors.

My plan is to follow his approach and change the way doctors, patients and the public in general analyze, distill and use information to take responsibility to improve our lives which, in turn, will directly improve the healthcare system.

In the middle of the confusion surrounding proposed political health care reforms, it is time to take responsibility for our health and become our own doctors.

I am not advocating you get rid of doctors; I’m  saying it’s time to change our own personal health paradigm. To accomplish the change we need to stop being afraid that missing the diagnosis of a disease will send us directly to the morgue. As we change from focusing on getting a diagnosis to staying healthy, our health will improve.

That change will inevitably lead to less intervention.

As we become less fearful of the system and more empowered, we will realize that much intervention was created to improve the bottom line rather than to help you and me be healthier and enjoy better lives.  Maybe this is not exactly how it all started but, unfortunately, that is where it is today.

That is why it’s time for us to change now.

While we are worrying and debating the validity and honesty of the new mammography guidelines, the purity and helpfulness of birth control pills, the necessity of annual PAP smears and the safety and efficacy of vaccines, drugs and procedures in general, we may want to stop and look at what we really know something about.

We know we are all here just temporarily.

In case you need more reminder of how time flies, we are now entering 2010.

An entire decade has passed since Y2K and we are in the middle of the worst economic recession since the Depression of 1929.

How many of you remember that? I venture to say, not many…. I’m sure you get my point.

Back to what we know: Progress in the area of healthcare has been slow. While we have developed amazing new technologies and we are peering into the future with stem cell research, gene mapping and nanobots Roto-root-ering our arteries clean of plaque, most people only hear about these feats in the media.

People are getting health care from doctors whose information is at best 10 years old. Once out of training, doctors don’t have time or opportunity to keep up with the newest developments.

Too much medicine is practiced defensively with the doctor and the patient being adversaries rather than team members.

Too much medicine is about doing too much instead of listening and developing trust and confidence in each other.

Too little is disclosed to both doctors and patients about how much bad stuff happens when too much is being done out of defensive, careless and unkind medicine.

While I doubt the government will improve our healthcare system, (although I hold high hopes for more people getting access) and special interests will always make their way to the top of the wish list for things we absolutely need to develop (CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, mammograms, new drugs, new surgical procedures) I have no doubt each and everyone of us can move forward in the New Year with the knowledge that he/ or she is not helpless but rather completely in charge of making their own personal healthcare decisions.

This change won’t all happen in one year, but maybe the Tipping Point of health care is to be found in taking responsibility for creating a positive outcome in your own health.

I wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year in a world where you own your own health.

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