As we all know, the economy ain’t doing so well. And there’s good evidence to suggest that people are cutting back
on preventive doctor visits–when times get
tough, people reduce frivolous spending.
Doctor visits are frivolous?
medicine is absolutely horrible at preventing disease. Docs have done a phenomenal job prolonging the American life. Life
expectancy has risen from 49 to 77 years in the past 100 years. In
1900, the top four killers were pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhea, and
heart disease. But today, the number one killer in America is bad
behavior. Smoking, food addiction, alcohol addiction, and lack of
exercise create the top four killers — heart disease, cancer, stroke,
and COPD. I have to give my physician colleagues in the past 100 years
a huge pat on the back. We solved the simple, acute problems with
antibiotics, vaccines, and rehydration. The dirty little secret is that
the life expectancy of a 65 year old in 1900 was only about six years
less than a 65 year old living today. In other words, the extra 28
years of life expectancy in America in the past 100 years is
overwhelmingly due to antibiotics, vaccines, and surviving childhood.
It’s surely not due to our ability to change your behavior and prevent
your chronic disease.
The Great American Health-Care System was created in conjunction with
the technologies designed to solve simple, acute problems with pills,
shots, scalpels, and eight minute visits. And rightly so: Acute illnesses
killed us when our brick and mortar infrastructure was being built, and theory of modern health care was built to cure those ills. The problem is that pills, scalpels, and eight
minute visits are still all that today’s docs know. They are the tools doctors use because
we’ve always used them. And they are horrible tools to use for changing your
So how many doctors does it take to change your bad behavior?
That sounds like a lightbulb joke because, well, it is a bit of a joke. In med school, we got about one week of behavioral modification training during our
psychiatry rotation. The other 207 weeks of school were spent preparing us to be real doctors that simply prescribe and cut. Since doctors
have no idea how to change your behavior, we’re treating the symptoms
of chronic behavioral-based diseases like we’ve always treated acute
illness–with pills and scalpels. We’re using the wrong tools.
It’s time face the fact that doctors in our current health-care system
practicing today’s medicine aren’t going to significantly improve our
nation’s health. Only you, by leveraging the power of human will to
change your lifestyle for the better, will fix your own health. You are
the CEO of your body, and physicians are simply your consultants.
Because, on average, you spend one hour with your doctor per year, and
8,765 hours without. We don’t need more doctors or more pills. We need
you to understand, and to care, that your behavior today affects when
and how you will live in the distant future. Unfortunately, doctors need you
to give up all your fun, and behave. No wonder you don’t want to pay us
for that advice.
DISCLAIMER: I fully support this kind of prevention.
Jay Parkinson is a physician who lives in Brooklyn, and the Chief
Concept Officer at Myca. He saw that patients and doctors communicate
very differently from how the health-care industry does, using the
Internet and their iPhones. He soon had a functioning practice,
incorporating his Web site and house calls with email, IM, SMS, video
chat, and PayPal. This system was developed into an application
wrapping up all of those empowering technologies into one powerful
system–Hello Health. Parkinson and Hello Health were profiled in the Fast Company magazine article “The Doctor of the Future.”