Posted by: Chris Maloney | November 16, 2011

How Do We Get People To Make Themselves Healthier?

Pediatric polysomnography patient, Children's ...

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We desperately need to figure out how to get each other better.  Modern medicine is not working well at making this happen.

The medical group that has done the most in preventative medicine is, according to this TED speaker, dentistry.  When they tried to terrify patients, people didn’t brush their teeth more.  (This is, by the way, the way almost all medicine tries to convince you to do what they want.  It can be worse than ineffective and generate a nocebo effect.).  What works is efficacy, the sense that people can get better and this is the most effective way to do it.  When dentists explained the clear action (brushing) and the personal information (you have plaque) people brushed more.

When we look at how patients receive most of their healthcare information, it comes from drug companies.  We’ve all seen the wonderful full color ads, and the second page of gook that no one reads.  The FDA is failing to get the results it wanted to get by requiring the page to be there.  We should have a requirement that the information be contextualized like the nutrition facts on the side of a box of cereal.  It would be clearer, and probably would get more patients to try the drugs.  So it would be win-win for them.

What Thomas Goetz wants to do is make clearer lab results, that we could all understand.  Here’s the TED video link:

http://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_goetz_it_s_time_to_redesign_medical_data.html

I think this would be a wonderful idea, but is about as likely to happen as porcine aviation.  Much of the mystique of modern medicine is being able to interpret the arcane little lab scribbles.  If patients understand them as well, you can’t “interpret” the findings.  It takes the doctor out of the loop.  But in chronic disease, especially in situations where patients have had a disease for decades, it does seem a little ridiculous that they are never able to read the very papers that determine their medications.

Always, always ask for a copy of your labs!  If you can’t read them, start trying.  Here’s a source to start with:  http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/

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