How to be the CEO of your own health



The American healthcare system has shifted along with the American economy and American society. Long gone are the days of house calls by doctors, pharmacists who will have a long chat with you about medicine interactions, and insurance policies that covered everything. Going fast is affordable health care, the ability to see a doctor on the day you need to, and being able to call your doctor’s office instead of a call center. Health Insurance continues to increase in price, as do medical bills. More and more people are being forced to rely on urgent care, or even the emergency room to treat issues that used to be treated by their own doctors. Visiting urgent care or the ER costs even more and also helps to overwhelm the healthcare system even more than it already is. Primary care is being centralized into hospital groups, making it seem even more impersonal and harder to schedule.


 Even when you do get an appointment at your doctor’s office, you’ll likely see a PA and may never see the doctor or any specialist. The American healthcare system CAN be the greatest in the World- when it works. We have the best specialists, the best equipment, the best hospitals, and the best doctors. Unfortunately, both the health care system and the insurance systems are in transition and it would serve you well to plan your own health future and not rely on your doctor’s office to do it for you. Doctors are overworked, there aren’t enough of them graduating from medical schools, and primary care is shrinking in popularity as a specialty among those who do. The continued centralization and corporatization of primary care just make it that much more unappealing for new doctors. There are obvious exceptions- those that go into primary care and resist centralization in order to make a difference in the world. Unless those doctors are independent, though, the pressure is on them to see up to 50 patients a day- a number that makes any meaningful conversation about your health virtually impossible at the primary care level. Even if your doctor is independent, unless they have a different model, they may very well still choose to see far too many patients a day just for the bottom-line. 


Aside from the inability to have a real health conversation with your doctor, schedule overload means that doctors rarely have time to really keep up with health trends, new treatments, revised protocols, new studies on the harms of some prescription drugs, or the efficacy of natural ones. Beyond required continuing education hours, some primary care doctors may not read a single medical review and get new information solely from drug reps. We’re in a golden age of medical studies- genetics, natural treatments, studying traditional medicines with modern eyes, and understanding basic biochemical, pathogenic, allergic, and other reactions is at an all-time high. There have been great leaps forward in understanding just how interconnected the various systems in the body are, and how what we eat truly makes us what we are through our microbiomes, for example. These revolutions in knowledge and thinking have bypassed many doctors- particularly primary care doctors- partly because of how overwhelmed they are with the new status quo. 


American medicine is undergoing the same sort of revolution the American economy has undergone- seismic shifts that have meant that people have had to become more self-reliant to put together a successful career for themselves. Many white-collar workers used to have job security and benefits that extended from their hire date to the grave. Good insurance, pensions, and other benefits meant that many workers changed jobs infrequently if at all. Many blue-collar workers enjoyed somewhat similar privileges because of the efforts of robust unions. Those days are also mostly gone. Private sector pensions and generous insurance is generally a thing of the past, as is job security. Many workers have had to create their own opportunities through entrepreneurship, multiple jobs, the gig economy, consulting, and just generally figuring it out for themselves. There is certainly opportunity there- the United States is rich and prosperous compared to most of the World, but you can’t take it for granted. You have to inform yourself in order to empower yourself to make the choices that will allow you to succeed. There is rarely someone to do it for you and allow you to advance your career merely through one channel. You have to seize the day. 


The same is true of your health. Many of us don’t yet realize that the system won’t take care of us unless we are our own advocates and knowledge banks. Even then, it may be too expensive to wait until we have a condition before we take action. It’s not unusual to hear of patients that are more knowledgeable of their own conditions than their doctors are. Those doctors haven’t had the time to learn, or are stuck in the past when it comes to hard-to-diagnose conditions like Lyme Disease, autoimmune conditions, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Long COVID, or a debilitating reaction to an antibiotic that causes long-term damage. There are many other conditions that fit into these categories, and every person is unique. The system can move slowly, you may have to see multiple doctors before you are taken seriously, and the costs escalate. Just as you may have had to study, plan, and make the hard decisions as your own boss and explore facets of the economy and business you didn’t know before, the time has come to do the same with your health. YOU should be the CEO of your own health. How? Again, think of the transitions that people have had to make in business and career and think likewise. Here are some ideas to get you started:


    • Educate yourself– Reading blogs like this can be a start, but continue by learning about trends in medicine, natural healthcare, preventative care, and learning about how the systems of the body work together. This does not mean googling every symptom you think you may be having, but paying attention to your body and educating yourself about the impacts of lifestyle decisions you make, and paying attention to your body.
    • Pay attention to prevention– You’ve probably heard about the importance of prevention, but take it seriously. Paying attention to diet, limiting excesses in your life, getting enough sleep, managing stress, self-testing for things you can, and scheduling tests regularly for those you can’t do yourself. Taking vitamins and supplements, exercising regularly (even for just 20 minutes a day), avoiding harsh chemicals (or detoxing when you can’t), controlling your sugar intake (keep it low), fiber intake (keep it high), watching your blood pressure, and controlling for allergies can all make a huge difference not only in lifespan, but in the QUALITY of your life. Avoiding and decreasing sources of inflammation alone could make you feel much better. Not paying attention now will likely mean you’ll have to pay far more serious attention (and cash) later.
    • Change the way you think about your doctor– You may have ditched your cable or your landline. You may have converted to online shopping. You may have decided to rebalance your work/family time ratio. The world is moving on, and health care is dragging its feet. Staying with the same old doctor, who is now dictated to by their hospital ownership group is false economy. Chasing appointments, never getting anyone on the phone, hoping that your urgent prescription refill message will be listened to by a functionary before you run out…these are the new hallmarks of modern primary care. You didn’t put up with it from your cable company, why do you put up with it from your doctor’s office? Choose an independent office- one that practices functional medicine. Functional medicine doctors integrate natural and traditional medicine with conventional medicine. Integrative and functional medicine clinics like Progressive Medical Center in Atlanta have structured their practices in a completely different way than have hospital-owned groups. Doctors see far fewer patients a day. There is plenty of time to get to the bottom of YOUR health story. Their doctors listen- because they have time to, are trained to, and they practice the sort of medicine concerned with the bigger picture. The team of practitioners comes together to figure out the root cause of what is wrong, all the time listening to your story and feedback. Functional medicine testing includes panels that conventional primary care doctors ignore. These tests can give you a more complex look into your body that allows preventative care- not just treatment after the fact.
  • Ditch the insurance mentality– Although most procedures are covered at a functional medicine center (just like in conventional medicine), there are some supports, treatments, and testing that may be optional and self-funded. Insurance companies have become more and more restrictive, and although it would make logical sense for them to fully embrace preventative medicine, in reality they don’t do more than embrace a very few options and give lip service to the idea as a whole. It’s foolish to let the pencil pushers who don’t care determine the track of YOUR health, particularly when in the long run you’ll send a lot more for not having the information, collaboration, and procedures you may need to keep your health on track. Just as you’ve had to in the modern economy, you’ll have to make your own way to some extent in this modern age of healthcare. 
  • Keep on track- and if you don’t try, try again- Collaborating with a more broadminded physician who embraces a more comprehensive approach to your health is a start. Self-funding some testing, supplements,  and procedures (if necessary) that are suggested, helps empower you to plan your own health plan for the future. If you stray from your plan and intentions, keep trying. Every bit helps- you’ll get there! Enlist help from your integrative and health professionals to get you back on track. Plan on testing over time to make sure you are still on track. Make yourself your best advocate and take control of your own health!