Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DAY 43 – Our Treating-not-Teaching System of Healthcare

I was one, before I learned that the word “doctor”, which comes from Latin, means teacher. Nonetheless, from the first days of my practice in March of 1983, it was clear to me that patients deserved to, and needed to understand their bodies, understand the treatments they were to receive, and understand the ways in which they could maintain their own health.

(image courtesy of

Unfortunately, doctors in healthcare today provide a lot of treating, and very little teaching. (Note: I use the term doctor here to mean all kinds of doctors; chiropractors, MDs, dentists, acupuncturists, etc...)

Given the poor health of our citizenry and the unaffordable nature of health care services in 2010, we would be wise, as a culture, to give thought to the kind of doctoring we currently receive, and to the kind that we desperately need.

My adaptation of a Chinese proverb might provide some insight into improving our national health, and into avoiding the financial cataclysm that may be brought about in our country by healthcare costs; “Give a man a treatment and he feels better for a day. Teach a man about his body and how to care for it, and he feels better for a lifetime.”

There are at least 4 impediments to healing our treating-not-teaching system of healthcare;
1)    Our insurance-based reimbursement system financially rewards treating-not-teaching,
2)    Most patients don’t understand the long-term risks and choose the quick-fix treatment over learning to take better care of themselves,
3)    Most doctors take the path of least resistance and of best reimbursement; selling treatments,
4)    Our culture as a whole doesn’t understand that it isn't a lack of treatment that is killing us; we are killing ourselves by how we live.

If tomorrow Americans had to pay out of pocket for every doctor’s visit, every shot, every laboratory test, every drug, you can bet that we would be demanding a teach-more-treat-less system. We’re not stupid. But have we missed the boat?

Whether our culture wises-up or not, we as individuals can get on board by;
1) Creating and beginning a simple wellness plan of walking, stretching and improved diet,
2) Asking our doctors what causes our illnesses and what we can do to improve our health,
3) If our doctors are not interested in the teach-more-treat-less system, begin telling everyone we meet that we are looking for a teach-more doctor.

Take charge of your life and your health!

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