I believe that everyone is aware that exercise and nutrition are vitally important in part of a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes I think the emphasis on these two points are overplayed because they seem to reduce the relevance of the other equally important components which receive significantly less attention. Doctors have a tendency to base health on lab values, diagnostic imaging and pathology reports. Although these tangible findings are certainly relevant, sometimes we need to look into a patient’s eyes to understand if more is going on than the reports are revealing. I believe the following four examples add great value to the doctor/patient relationship.
(1) One of my favorite questions I used to ask patients was, “are you happy?” Lab work could not provide an accurate answer to this question (most of the time.) Happiness is an important component to health. It physiologically reduces stress hormones, allows for better metabolic activity and strengthens immune function. Just as important, it makes a person “feel good.” When was the last time your doctor asked you if you were happy?
(2) Another important questions was “how much sleep do you get on a daily basis?” Sleep and recovery are essential to function well. Sleep deprivation can lead to (1) stroke, (2) obesity, (3) diabetes, (4) bone disease, (5) cancer, (6) heart disease, (7) memory loss and (8) pain. Once a person experiences any of these conditions, how often do doctors address improving sleep patterns as part of the treatment plan? In most cases the solutions are centered around prescriptive medications to stabilize the condition. This certainly may be an important first step, but how is the person going to prevent a reoccurrence if sleep is not addressed? When was the last time your doctor discussed sleep with you?
(3) I recently wrote an article on water. You can find it by clicking on this red link: Water: A Painless Answer To Disease Prevention. Most people do not truly understand the damaging effects of dehydration unless they are rushed to the hospital in a state of cardiac arrhythmia. Water is NOT an optional fluid; it is essential for life. Why does it have to be an ALL or NOTHING proposition? Why doesn’t the average person consume the amount of water needed for healthy hydration AND drink other beverages (in addition) for flavor and satisfaction? An individual is not healthy if they are chronically dehydrated (even if there are no obvious symptoms.) Remember, symptoms are the FINAL PHASE of a problem your body can no longer address and therefore creates an awareness for self preservation. When was the last time your doctor discussed proper hydration with you?
(4) We are social creatures. Belonging to social and or spiritual/religious organizations creates a comradery the human soul benefits from. This bonding helps establish additional purpose in life leading to a more complete feeling about oneself. Self satisfaction is an important part of good health. As we grow older, this purpose helps further develop our skills and interactions that provide a lifetime of continual growth. Aging becomes viewed from a healthier and happier perspective. When was the last time your doctor asked you what your passions and purpose in life were and what steps you were taking to achieve your goals?
I hope this article helped awaken a new view on health and the additional roles a doctor can participate in to help enable you to maximize your own health. Traditional healthcare offers great value and should continue to be part of everyone’s life. I believe we need to further humanize the doctor/patient relationship to attain superior results to current standards. These four areas of doctor/patient interaction just begin to touch the surface.
What additional services do you feel a doctor should offer to help enhance their patient’s quality of health?