Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What is Preventive Health Care

Preventive health care, means exactly that. Many practitioners spend a great deal of their time consulting patients on how to prevent chronic and acute illness. Atherosclerosis, Cardiac events, Strokes, Alzheimer's, Diabetes, Osteoporosis, and many other illnesses can be prevented.

Preventive health care can be practiced by everyone, even people who have become ill already and wish to regain their health and stay healthy. Of course, if you wait too long to start a preventive health care plan you are no longer preventing disease, you are treating it. Either way, adopting healthy practices, having diagnostic testing done on a regular basis, and taking steps to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate any undesirable test results is key.

Insurance companies and employers are starting to understand the importance of preventive health care. Employers have taken notice of the amount of lost hours due to illnesses like Diabetes, heart surgeries to replace valves and install stents, and obesity. Many people do not consider obesity an illness, but if you add up all of the factors involved and the ramifications of not dealing with being overweight - it becomes illnesses - consider Diabetes and Heart Disease.

Diagnostic testing for preventive care is the same as testing for illnesses. Our clinic tests for several more criteria than a standard blood panel. We do this to get a complete picture of our patients health and organ function. Some of our patients pay cash for their testing, others do have insurance that will pay for their tests. It may take a few more years to get your insurance company to buck up the money for "preventive diagnostic testing" though. Insurance companies like to be able to put a label on what they are paying for. They like to be able to say you are being treated for Diabetes or Heart Disease. They are not comfortable with the term prevention. Insurance companies want to pay for something that is broken, or needs repair. They like to have definitive proof that illness is present. They also like to see precriptive drugs as treatment for illnesses. This information gives them a black and white definition and a name and treatment to go along with it.

Preventive medicine doesn't fall into those guidelines. To prevent illness you must examine a persons lifestyle, their eating habits, run specific diagnostic tests and comprehend the data that is received. Many times due to elevated levels of specific proteins or blood levels, a doctor recognizes the signs that if something doesn't change illness is coming. Often this doctor recommends or prescribes that a patient get 30 minutes of excercise 4-5 times a week, remove certain foods from the diet and add specific foods or supplements to prevent a disease. There are no prescriptions to prescribe, no surgeries to perform, no NAME to place on the disease, because it hasn't become a disease yet. There is nothing for the insurance company to pay for, except the diagnostic testing and the office visit. The responsibility lies on the patient, both for getting well and paying for the knowledge to do so.

Unfortunately, insurance companies prefer that you wait until the disease has taken over and medical intervention is required. They prefer to pay for expensive prescriptions, repetitive check ups, and surgeries because they can measure those results. If you are prescribed insulin to inject yourself with daily, because you have diabetes, they understand that. Have you ever tried to measure what might have happened "if"? If I hadn't started walking a mile a day and stopped eating processed foods I would have diabetes today... Insurance companies do not deal in "what if's".

Whats the answer?
Don't count on your insurance company to pay for your health. Insurance companies pay for illnesses. They pay for something when it's broken. You must make the choice not to wait until you are broken to be concerned about your future health. You only have one heart, one pancreas, one liver and fortunately a couple of organs that come in twos!

If you wait until your heart is sick or damaged to start taking care of it.... what happens if it can't be returned to 100%. If you wait until your pancreas can no longer make insulin to prevent diabetes... Guess what!!!! It's too late. Once your pancreas is exhausted from making too much insulin to fight off all of the sugar and processed food and it runs out... it's done. It can not make insulin ever again. You will be dependent on a shot for the rest of your life.

Preventive health care is important for all of us. Changing our lifestyles to include exercise, a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and regular check ups with your preventive health care doctor are the best way to get started.

1 comment:

  1. "The responsibility lies on the patient ..."

    That's true in all aspects of life. Doctors have only a very limited role to play. As individuals we need to take charge, and sometimes that may mean finding another doctor, if the one we have doesn't listen and explain things well.