In a recent USA Today article, author and health care advocate Christine Bechtel shared how she broke down in tears during a medical appointment because she felt her physician brushed her off.
“All I wanted was a human connection, but the doctor-patient relationship – the most important element in all of health care – was dead on arrival,” she wrote.
Ms. Bechtel attributed the death of that relationship primarily to the health insurance industry, which reimburses so little that doctors are forced to ration their time and the care they provide in order to see enough patients to pay their own bills.
The average visit with a primary care provider in the United States is only ten to twelve minutes, with newer doctors spending as little as eight minutes per visit with patients, according to recent studies.
My own experience as a practicing physician confirms these facts. And it’s why, in my current practice (The Center for Anti-aging, Aesthetic and Rejuvenation Medicine in Viera, Florida), I refuse to accept the handicapping limitations that the low rates of insurance reimbursements require.
Let me tell you my story.
After nearly four decades as an anesthesiologist, working primarily in cardiac surgery, I’ve witnessed this demise of quality health care at the hands of insurers and administrators, who are forced to cut corners to make a profit. One key strategy for hospitals and clinics: squeeze every insurance-billable hour out of physicians by loading up their patient caseloads until a visit to your caregiver resembles a Ford assembly line.
In 2016, a catastrophic experience changed my trajectory. I became critically ill with Acute Respiratory Distress System, was intubated and lapsed into a coma that lasted six weeks. Twice during that period, I suffered cardiac arrest two times. In layman’s terms – I died twice. Thankfully, I was revived. My own doctors said they were ready to “pull the plug” when I unexpectedly regained consciousness.
This was followed by six weeks in a rehab hospital and two years in outpatient rehabilitation. I had so many medications, my home looked like a Walgreen’s pharmacy.
This devastating experience led to an epiphany. It has changed my life and the way I practice medicine.
Seeing health care from the patient side – very limited hours with physicians, cursory treatments, dependence on prescribing pills as a Band-Aide “solution”— led me to adopt the latest and most far-sighted development in health care. This cutting-edge practice goes by several names: Integrative Functional medicine, Precision medicine, and Personalized medicine.
In its most basic terms, Integrative Functional medicine seeks the root causes of a patient’s illness, and then finds the least invasive, most natural way to find permanent solutions. In my practice, I combine the best practices of traditional medicine with Integrative Functional medicine.
This approach means spending about two hours in my initial visit with patients. I take a deep dive into their medical histories, their life experiences and any information relevant to their conditions. If they raise an issue that I’m not familiar with, I research it or reach out to colleagues with specialized expertise. No stone is left unturned.
I follow this with the latest tests – many based on genetic testing – to pinpoint the causes of their problems. In collaboration with my patients, I fully explain the results of their tests and prescribe treatment that may include vitamins, diet changes, exercise and yes, medications. We monitor results and change or adjust treatment to improve results.
Some of these procedures and tests may be covered by insurance, some not. I encourage prospective patients to do their due diligence and research their options. But I also encourage them to think about medical care as a fundamental investment in their health and quality of life.
It’s a paradigm change for both physicians and patients: Doctors cannot provide the quality of care their patients deserve under the constraints of insurance. And patients won’t get the care they need with 12-minute medical visits.
I’m proud of the results of this work and my success with patients, like Brenda M., who has been able to transform her life, dramatically lowering her blood pressure and weight, increasing her energy level and improving her longevity and outlook on life.
“Is there anything more important than your health?” asks Brenda, who was a candidate for a heart attack before we began working together. “You can’t put a price on health.”
Brenda understood the importance of investing in transformational care. “Insurance didn’t pay for my house, my furniture computer, or my clothes,” she told me. “Why wouldn’t I pay out-of-pocket for my health care?”
Until policy makers and the insurance industry make fundamental changes, many patients will have to make financial investments in their care or accept subpar treatments.
If you are seeking root-cause solutions to your health issues, have spent years fruitlessly going from doctor to doctor for help, or simply want the most natural treatment to your conditions, please go to our website, antiagingim.com. Read about our services and medical philosophy, and read our patient reviews. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org at (321) 421-7111.