Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Preventive Medicine - Your Job, Not Your Physician's

How often have we read of the need to improve preventive measures in order to improve health as well as to decrease the cost of health care.  Unquestionably true, in my opinion.  But emphasizing preventive care does not demand an increase in physician-visits.  Maintenance of good preventive measures does not require expensive programs.  It does not require physician visits every few months; it does not require unnecessary mammograms, unnecessary CT scans, unnecessary ultrasounds, unnecessary blood tests, etc.   Society (government) has to agree on which measures are statistically preventive, and which are not.  If, hypothetically, a CT scan can detect a treatable disease or disorder in its early stages 100% of the time, but the disease or disorder  has a known occurrence of only 1 in 10,000 population,  should society support the cost of 9,999 normal CT scans to find the 1 with the disease?  In our rush to promote our health we cannot ignore statistical data.  We should not expect insurance companies or government programs to support preventive programs that search for "needles in haystacks."  As wonderful as it may be to be able to preventively treat the above-discussed disease in the 1 patient who may have it, the cost to society of finding him may easily be $5,000,000 (10,000 CT scans at $500 each)!

For the vast majority of us preventive care comes at little or no cost.   All it takes is a common sense diet, a common sense exercise routine (no gym required, believe me), a common sense avoidance of proven potentially dangerous habits, and little more.  These are the essentials of "prevention" - they are effective - they are without any major costs.  You do not need a physician to live a healthy life.  A physician's job should not be to keep you healthy - you can easily do that on your own.  A physician's job is to treat disease and to monitor the treatment of disease. Preventive measures to maintain good health is your job, not his.  

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