It can’t happen.
People are too stupid/ignorant/lazy or simply don’t care.
It is irresponsible. People will misuse, abuse, misdiagnose, fail to recognize all manner of medical conditions.
It’s all true. Most of the medical establishment believes it. And it is self-fulfulling: If you believe it, it will happen.
But it’s not true for everybody. If readers of this blog, for instance, were to view the conversations we have in our Track Your Plaque Forum, you would immediately recognize that we have a following that is more sophisticated and knowledgeable about coronary heart disease than 90% of cardiologists. That is really something. Perhaps they can’t put in a stent or defibrillator, but they understand an enormous amount about this disease we are all trying to control and reverse, sufficient to seize control over much of their own healthcare for this process and related conditons.
Anyway, self-directed health is already here. And it’s happening on an incredible scale.
–Nutritional supplements–Now a $21 billion (annual revenues) phenomenon, booming sales of nutritional supplements are a powerful testimonial to the enthuasiasm of the public for self-directed health treatments. Sure, there are plenty of junk supplements out there, but there are also many spectacularly effective products. Information, not marketing, will help tell the difference. Over the long-run, the truth will win out.
The 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act has allowed the definition of “nutritional supplement” to be stretched to the limit. “Nutritional supplements” includes obviously non-nutritional (though still potentially interesting) products like the hormones pregnenolone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and melatonin to be sold on the same shelf as vitamin C. There are also amino acids, polysaccharides, minerals and trace minerals, herbal preparations, flavonoids, carotenoids, antioxidants, phytonutrients.
In fact, I believe that the nutritional supplement pipeline is likely to yield far more exciting and effective products than the drug research pipeline! And you will have access to all of it–without your doctor’s involvement.
–Self-ordered laboratory testing–In every state except New York and California, an individual can obtain his or her own laboratory testing. New services are appearing to service this consumer segment. As more people become frustrated with the silly gatekeeping function of their primary care physician and as more people gain more control over some of their healthcare dollars through medical savings accounts, flex-spending, and high-deductible health insurance, more are shopping for cost-saving, self-ordered lab testing. Even at-home lab tests are becoming available, such as ZRT Lab tests we make available through Track Your Plaque.
(In California, a doctor’s order, or an order from a health professional allowed to prescribe, is still required which, for most people, is just a formality. Just ask your doctor to sign the form with the tests you’d like. Only the most cretinous of physicians will refuse, in which case you should say goodbye. New York is the only state in the U.S. that still dunks women to see if they float, divines the entrails of sacrificial cows, and prohibits lab self-testing.)
–Self-ordered medical imaging–Heart scans, full body scans; ultrasound screening for abdominal aneurysms, carotid disease, osteoporosis such as that offered by LifeLine Screening (who does a great job). There’s plenty of room here for entrepreneurial types to develop new services, though there will also be battles to fight with hospitals, radiologists, and others invested in the status quo. But it is happening and it will grow.
(By the way, since I’ve previously been accused of making bundles of money from medical imaging: I have never–NEVER–owned and do not currently own any medical imaging facility.)
So the question is not “will it happen?” It is already happening. The question is how fast will it grow to include a larger segment of the public? How much more of conventional healthcare can it include? How can we develop better unbiased information sources, untainted by marketing, that guide people through the maze of choices?
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