The Real Solution
Posted on May 29, 2012 | Author: Manh Tuan Nguyen | Category: General | 4 Comments
Doctors in Ontario have just been given a shave. A number of fees have been cut, affecting family physicians and a number of different specialists. The provincial government has usually made these kinds of decisions by consensus, in negotiation with the Ontario Medical Association. This time the talks went nowhere, and the Ministry of Health acted unilaterally, making cuts wherever and however it thought best. This understandably upset the OMA, which is the official voice of doctors in the province, and which normally has a say in such matters.
There has been a lot of debate about whether these fee cuts were appropriate, or fair, or smart. Cataract surgery was the most obvious example of procedures that have been overpaid for far too long; the original 3-hour surgery is now done in 15 minutes. Few would argue with cuts that bring procedures more in line with the current reality. Some of the injections and other procedures I perform to treat chronic pain were cut significantly, and even though we are struggling with a chronic pain epidemic, the cuts were not unreasonable. The fee paid to family doctors for routine appointments was cut by about 7%, and this was not very smart politically, because it has affected over ten thousand family doctors. Overall, I don't think the cuts were particularly unfair.
But the problem with this strategy is not with the fees that were cut. The problem is that the whole approach of cutting fees for business-as-usual healthcare does nothing to fix our broken system. It misses the point.
As long as doctors get paid per visit, they will have no incentive to take the time needed to help people get healthy. As long as doctors and patients are not given an incentive to improve eating habits, increase physical activity, adopt self-care practices that promote wellness and stimulate healing, our healthcare system will continue to be a sick care system. Our healthcare system spends billions on doctors and nurses, but the drugs and surgeries they use don't cure any of the chronic diseases that are the number one driver of costs. They manage diseases, but they don't make them go away.
Modern medicine as it is currently practiced is a sinking ship, and trying to manage our current healthcare system is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. This might seem like an overstatement, and some might even consider it ridiculous. Those of us who practice integrative medicine, who have come to deeply understand how people get sick and how they heal, have already accepted this deep truth. We do not treat our patients with band-aids that manage their symptoms. We help them return to the natural state of health.
When I returned to Canada six years ago to create the Seekers Centre, I had a vision for a better way to practice medicine. An approach that integrated the wisdom and knowledge of the world's healing traditions, that focused on helping the body heal itself. This approach doesn't just feel better, it works better. I have seen it, and our patients have seen it. Around the world, hundreds of forward-thinking physicians and other holistic practitioners who practice integrative medicine are helping their patients achieve remarkable improvements in their health and in their lives.
Mainstream doctors and healthcare systems have ignored integrative medicine for decades, and they continue to do so. The reason is simple: it is unproven. While there are hundreds of small studies suggesting that chronic diseases can be treated using a number of non-drug approaches, these small trials are considered weak evidence, and their findings are inconclusive. Of the hundreds of small trials on promising non-drug therapies, none have ever been taken to the next level to see if they really work.
The large clinical trials that are required to change the way doctors practice will never happen for integrative medicine. If you want to know why, just follow the money. Drug companies don't think twice about spending millions on drug trials because they own the patents that will guarantee billions in revenue. When it comes to integrative medicine, the formula is simple: No patent - No profit - No proof. No one who sells natural remedies owns a patent, so they have no reason to pay for research.
Governments have a huge incentive to study these therapies, because they could save billions in healthcare costs. But governments are governments, and they can rarely muster the know-how and the political will to figure out what needs to be done and do it right. Our current government means well, but their bureaucracy is no exception.
This is why my focus has shifted. While I am still dedicated to helping shape the minds of young doctors - and any other physician who wants to learn to help their patients heal using integrative medicine - I am no longer trying to change the system. I am now focused on helping people heal themselves. This is part of a paradigm shift that goes beyond medicine. It is taking place on many levels around the world. Individuals are becoming empowered, mostly because of the internet, to shape their own future, to run their own lives and to make their own decisions. We cannot rely on governments or corporations to build a better world.
In the healthcare system of the future, people will be taught to heal themselves. Drugs and surgery will play a far smaller role in the treatment of chronic disease. We will rely on solutions that are simple, cheap, safe and natural. We will always need doctors, but the real solution is integrative medicine.