by Natasha N. Deonarain, MD, MBA
Jenny sat in front of me at one of my small group seminars. She said that she was frustrated with doctors like me. Every time she went to one, she said, they would ask her what her problem was, give her a prescription and then get irritated when she said she didn’t want pills as a solution.
“Why did you come here then?” asked one primary care doctor in an exasperated tone of voice.
It seems that we all want to get healthy these days. The Google alerts button I use combs the internet looking for the key words “health conscious”. A growing number of sites talk about how people, cities, restaurants and are offering health conscious options.
But when it comes to mainstream doctors and the way we’ve been taught to “get people healthy,” the only solution we can come up with is a list of things to do for a bunch of different problems. And, the only tools we seem to have are prescriptions or more diagnostic tests.
The problem isn’t with your doctor. The problem seems to be the “approach” your doctor has been taught to use in the doctor/patient encounter to help you get healthy. Let’s take a closer look at what goes on.
Say you book an appointment with your doc for a “health check-up.” You show up on time and sign in as a “patient.” Your doctor’s medical assistant takes you back and immediately asks you to step on a scale, then takes your blood pressure, temperature, pain scale and respiratory rate.
Next, you’re taken back to the exam room. You take your clothes off and sit on the exam table, waiting for your doctor to come in. After she enters and says hello, what’s the first question she’s likely to ask?
If you guessed your doctor is likely to ask about symptoms or problems you may have, you’re correct.
At first glance, you’re probably wondering what’s wrong with this scenario. There’s nothing wrong with it, except the fact that you came in for a “health” check-up and the first thing that happened was a line of questions and actions to search for a bunch of different diseases. In fact, your doctor would likely continue the encounter by ordering some blood tests and imaging studies such as a mammogram. At the end of your medical record, your doctor will list all the separate problems you have and then write a treatment plan for each problem.
But wait a minute! Didn’t you come in for a health check-up? And now you’ve got a bunch of separate problems to deal with!
Americans are becoming obsessed about getting healthy. Doctors are rushing to learn integrated medicine and provide treatments which include more natural options. But there’s a fundamental problem we’re all still missing!
If we want integrated health as an outcome, we need to begin with integrated health!
Does it make any sense to create a list of separate symptoms and problems, and then make another list of fixes or cures for each problem, when the person is already integrated and whole?
Let’s think about it this way. If you want a car to run well, does it make sense to take the car apart, lay out all the parts, put organic duck-tape on each part and then declare that the car should work because each separate part was fixed?
We are integrated, multi-dimensional beings. But, the entire healthcare encounter between doctor and patient in medicine is flawed.
So how do you change all this?
It’s actually really simple. If you want integrated health as an outcome, the approach
to your health must begin with language, actions and solutions which are integrated and whole-person. This doesn’t mean going to an integrated medicine doctor and getting a bunch of natural or organic fixes or cures for your problems. That’s simply a list of more things to do for separate diseases. This means the entire encounter with your doctor, from start to finish, begins as a whole-person approach.
What do I mean by this?
An integrated doctor/patient encounter means helping people build a Personal Health Strategy™. A Personal Health Strategy™ is an integrated plan which serves as the foundation of health for the rest of someone’s life.
I call my interview with CEO’s (Chief Empowered Optimists, not patients!) a Strategic Health™ encounter. My line of initial questioning is big picture. And the first question I ask is this: “What is it you most want in life?”
Then, I ask why
the CEO is not getting what he or she most wants from life. It’s amazing that everything in our lives, our careers, finances, relationships, diseases and emotions, deeply affect our health. After I ask these two questions, I find out that almost all issues are related to one of five different areas: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual or financial challenges. Then, I help my CEO’s develop a Personal Health Strategy™ which simultaneously corrects their challenges in these five different areas.
I don’t deal with an endless list of diagnosis or “things to do” anymore. I don’t write a bunch of prescriptions for each diagnosis. I help CEO’s use their strategic mindset and approach (big picture or whole-person thinking) to learn how to live and practice “life” with an integrated approach.
And guess what?
Their outcome is reversal or correction of multiple diseases and whole-person, integrated health.
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