Your “Healthcare” Is Actually Sick Care —Here’s Why That Needs to Change
Today, aside from an obligatory annual physical, most people only see the doctor when they’re already sick. By that point, you’re already feeling poorly, your doctor might not even be available, and your doctor’s response is focused on reacting only to the symptoms at hand. Rather than a “healthcare” system, it’s a “sick” care system — and it’s not efficient, it’s not effective, and it’s not even healthful, especially when compared to preventative medicine.
This gap in care and broken medical system is exactly why Wild Health was founded. After working as ER doctors, Dr. Matthew Dawson and Dr. Mike Mallin, Wild Health’s co-founders, knew there was a better way to impact people’s health — one that would stop preventable health complications from ending in emergency room visits. Their solution: precision medicine with a focus on prevention. Here’s what they noticed was wrong with traditional medicine during their years as med school students and ER doctors — and why you should be aware of these deficits, too.
There are limited lifestyle strategies during education.
In both medical school education and in-office education, future and current physicians spend a minuscule amount of time on how lifestyle components (such as nutrition, exercise, and mental health) affect physical health and disease prevention. In fact, during four years of medical school, most students spend fewer than 20 hours on nutrition — a lifestyle component that their patients make choices around several times per day. With limited education, doctors aren’t prepared to talk to their patients about nutrition, so many avoid the subject altogether or suggest patients seek out registered dietitians (another appointment to book and insurance to verify that’s often too big of a barrier for many patients).
And if you are lucky enough to get a doctor who offers lifestyle advice in your appointments, the advice is often vague and not specific for you. Sure, one should “eat healthfully and work out,” but what does that actually mean to each individual patient? Does that mean adding more veggies, cutting back on processed foods, or both? Should the patient try weight training or cardio, or would gentle stretching be a better fit? This imprecise information doesn’t actually help the patient make meaningful changes.
In general, medical providers favor a culture that offers prescriptions first, preventions second (or not at all). Instead of looking for lifestyle shifts or healthy habits that can be added to address a symptom, traditional healthcare is quick to write a prescription to make the symptom go away or improve slightly. Case in point: More than half of all Americans take four prescriptions daily.
Traditional medicine is part of a corrupt business ecosystem.
Your average doctor’s office or emergency room is part of a tangled web of insurance companies, competing health systems, government agencies, and industry regularities that, ironically, don’t do much to help the individual patient. With profit as the main metric for success, doctors are forced into rushed appointments for patients (on average, a mere 17 minutes). And with less time to get a patient history, doctors favor quick, solution-oriented prescriptions that address symptoms but not root causes.
And those prescriptions come at a price: An estimated $200 billion per year is spent in the U.S. on the unnecessary and improper use of medication, for the drugs themselves and related medical costs. For many households, this expensive (and often unnecessary) medicine eats into their budget for other health-providing assets, such as groceries or utility bills. In addition, in 2014, almost 1.3 million people went to U.S. emergency rooms due to adverse drug effects. Other research suggests that up to half of those events were preventable. It’s clear that prescription medicines have more costly effects than most people realize.
There’s a lack of curiosity in healthcare.
Gone are the days when doctors have a personal relationship with their patients, built on years of trust and continued visits. And today, patients report a lack of communication and trust with their doctors. Often, the patient feels the doctor doesn’t ask enough or the right questions or is unwilling to dig deeper with more tests (especially if general labs show normal levels). Not only does this show an unwillingness to listen to the patient, but it also shows a lack of trust in the patient’s ability to know their own body.
So what are the solutions?
To turn our system from sick care into one of true health care, a few things need to happen. First, the medical industry needs more education and commitment to sustainable, science-backed lifestyle improvements. Our patients’ lives encompass so much more than the four walls of a doctor’s office, and we have to be willing to treat them through all stages of their life. To do so, medical professionals need more training around the basic fundamentals of a healthful lifestyle, such as whole foods, restorative sleep, regular movement, and more.
Second, we need to stop treating patients based on averages and general findings. Each patient is a unique individual and deserves to be seen as such. What works for one patient might not necessarily work for another, and it’s the job of the medical professional to dive into those specific strategies to find what will work. Part of that includes listening to the patient and working their preferences and lifestyle into a plan for health.
Finally, we must focus on preventing sickness rather than treating it. That means being proactive about health rather than reactive, looking for healthy habits our patients can add today so that they’re able to move and live more comfortably years down the line.
At Wild Health, we’re committed to preventative, precise healthcare and building relationships with our patients by seeing them as individuals. We’re defining healthcare on our own terms — will you join us?