I spend a lot of time worrying about how people can be helped to navigate through this program.
Take, for instance, the man in rural Texas who, while traveling in Dallas, got a heart scan on a whim. His score was 990. When he took the report back to his doctor, he got a smirk–and that’s all. When he came to the Track Your Plaque program, he lacked a physician advocate to help him.
Or the woman from Florida who sought opinions from two reputable cardiologists for her heart scan score of 377. Both advised her that she needed a heart catheterization–despite her lack of symptoms, her 5-day-a-week exercise program, and normal stress test. She also lacks a physician advocate who acts on her behalf, helping her achieve success, rather than just churning her for money from hospital procedures.
For people like this and for others, I see the Track Your Plaque program evolving in several directions:
1) An online clinic–You enter and we take your “hand” and lead you step by step through the process, not only at the beginning, but over the months and years. This would help clear up some of the confusion and zigzags that some people experience trying to navigate through the program.
2) Develop physician and non-physician partners–The woman in Florida, for instance, could be referred to a doctor nearby who understands the program and is able to assist her. At present, this is virtually impossible because of the bias towards heart procedures, drugs as the sole treatment for heart disease risk, and the superficial physician-patient relationship. The majority of practicing physicians just don’t understand the program despite the fact that it is based on sound clinical and experimental data. But it will in time.
Looking back, we’ve come a long way. I remember first having patients undergo heart scans 10 years ago. My colleagues laughed or called it “silly”. The general public didn’t know what they meant.
Now we’re talking about how to broadcast the most powerful heart disease prevention program available in the world to a larger audience, but making it easier and more accessible. Mass media like Oprah’s two hour-long spots helped, but we need to make the next leap. Not just identifying hidden heart disease to feed the hungry cardiovascular hospital procedure monster, but to educate/inform/empower the public on what to do with the scan once they’ve had it.
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