PharmaWe have a healthcare system that serves itself. It serves itself to make money. It’s an ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ world.

And I don’t like it! (Which is why, for the most part, I’ve opted out. I’ll take responsibility for my own health. Thankyouverymuch!)

No one seems to care about the patient. Certainly no one trusts the patient (the individual who’s body is being affected!) to make any decisions. Doctors have to follow the ‘standard of care’ laid out by insurance companies who get paid by the pharmaceutical companies, who ‘incentivize’ doctors to prescribe. Does anyone see a problem with this?

Where is the patient’s right to their own body? To be empowered around their health? To know what is going on, to make informed decisions, to be able to choose, to take back control of their own body, their own health?

Since when does a doctor that sees an individual for maybe 6 minutes a year know better than the individual herself what is going on and what can be done?

Why do patients so easily relinquish control of their health to the all-knowing doctor? Why do we trust another individual to know better for us than that which the inherent wisdom our own body provides?

Yes, that doctor has a degree. He/she has experience. He/she has seen hundreds, maybe thousands of patients in their career and they can easily see similarities and patterns among patients.

But no 2 patients are ever exactly alike, therefore what works for one may not do a damn thing for another… or, may even make them worse.

No, I’m not saying that personalized medicine (or any other buzz phrase) is going to solve everything.

What I am calling for is the patient to take–and to be able to have–more responsibility for their own health: to have the power and be enabled to make the right decisions for their own body.  We need a two-pronged approach.

Empower yourself for your healthFirst, it needs to come from individuals. Every individual patient demanding the right to a 2nd or 3rd opinion and choosing at least one ‘alternative’ (or complementary, or functional) medicine practitioner for one of those opinions. For the individual to get back in touch with his/her body, to listen to the body’s wisdom, to let the body heal itself. For the individual to realize that the basics matter: diet, lifestyle, stress management, sleep, and exercise. That they can affect change in their own life, on their own health, in their own body, and on their own longevity and vitality. We need more sense of self-control, of self-determination, of self-empowerment around health and well-being.

Far too many patients unquestionably turn their power over to their doctor that sees them for 6 minutes and to a pharmaceutical company that does not have their best interest in mind. They trust blindly in the expertise of a doctor who is too busy to listen or to fully understand and evaluate the situation.

You spend more time with you, living in your body, experiencing your life than any doctor ever will. How can that physician know better than you? Now’s your chance: become empowered around your health, educate yourself, get connected to your body, seek to change the fundamentals before slapping on a bandaid solution (i.e. treating symptoms is not nearly as effective as addressing root causes). You have to start with you. Lead by example. Change yourself, then demand change from the system.

Second, the medical system needs to enable, empower, and support individuals to take control of their health, to choose what’s best for them, to fully understand the options and consequences, to track progress, to be able to say ‘no’ and choose an alternative. But patients are rarely given access to their records, they don’t get to see (and keep) imaging results; lab work gets sent to the doctor, not to the patient.  How can the patient do their own research, see how they’ve improved, and understand their numbers if he/she is not allowed access to them.

The pharma-medical system is trying to maintain its bastion of power, money and secrecy, but that can’t survive in a world of open data, of transparency, of independent lab tests, and alternative approaches to wellness and healthcare. Patients deserve access to all their own tests and imaging results, to be able to keep their own records, to take those to a different practitioner, to be able to direct their own care.

Yes, a radiologist’s interpretation of scans are useful, but if the pictures stay locked up in his computer, that makes it really difficult for the patient to get another opinion, or to take those records with them if they move, or to track progress. How do you know if you’ve improved, if something has changed, if all you have to go by is someone’s high level pronouncements of what they see (as we know, perception is everything).

I understand there’s a need for an expert’s opinion, but again, when it should be about the patient and providing her with all that she needs to know to seek the best path for herself, the pharma-medical complex is holding on to their power, desperately clinging to the prestige, the title, and the sense of feeling needed.

Don’t worry, we’ll still need experts, doctors, and health practitioners of all sorts.

But more importantly, as patients, as individuals, as self-determined humans beings with a right heal ourselves as it makes sense for our own bodies, we need to demand a bigger say in how we are treated; we need to look to heal from within; we need to take responsibility for our own health; and we need to be empowered and enabled to achieve greater well-being on our own by every health practitioner with which we work.

This is a matter of responsibility, of power, and of self-determination.

Where do you stand?

Will you stand up for your own health?