Unnecessary Medical Treatment – A Systems Problem

From much of what I’ve read, it seems that the patient-doctor relationship is mostly unbalanced. The doctor tells the patient what’s wrong, and what needs to happen to fix it. And this happens within a system that forces doctors to quickly address the offending symptoms and move on.

Turning control and responsibility for our health over to the “system” or to others may very well lead to consequences that aren’t good.

In the United States more is spent per patient on health care than in any other developed country in the world. Yet the United States came in at 37th place in the World Health Organization’s assessment of overall health outcomes of all nations in 2010.

Shannon Brownlee makes the point in her book Overtreated. Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer, that:

Strengthening the patient’s role in choosing a particular treatment or test is an important aspect of moving toward more efficient care. (pg.. 297)

A health care system that allows for a more responsive patient-doctor relationship would provide for more effective two-way communication. The doctor could better understand the underlying causes of the patient’s symptoms; and the patient could actually choose treatment options that fit better his or her values.

In the late 1800s spiritual healer Mary Baker Eddy introduced a form of health care that puts the patient’s needs at the center of their care. She explains in her major work, Science and Health:

“Give sick people credit for sometimes knowing more than their doctors. Always support their trust in the power of Mind to sustain the body.”

Patient-centered health care starts with our thoughts, whether one is using a tool to help make decisions about a medical test, drug or procedure or choosing an approach outside the current biomedical health-care paradigm.

It’s reasonable to conclude that spending more time discovering the patient’s mental state and resulting behaviors can be the basis for improved health and lower costs.

Within integrated, patient-centered care models the needs of the whole person can be attended to, including mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.

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