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Self-empowerment in health: The new wave in health care

Posted Oct 01 2008 8:26pm

Track Your Plaque is just one facet of the broad and powerful emerging wave of self-empowerment in health.

Hospitals, drug and device manufacturers, and the medical establishment don't like this idea. People managing their own health? That's ridiculous! Dangerous! But mostly unprofitable.

Self-empowerment means having easy access to simple, safe, and inexpensive diagnostic tests like heart scans, carotid scans, bone densitometry (for osteoporosis), cholesterol tests, abdominal ultrasound, even brain scans (e.g., CT or MRI) for people with a family history of brain aneurysm.

Opponents of this idea worry about the "false-positives" that come about with broad testing, i.e, detection of abnormalities that are artifactual. Our experience is that false-positives are only an occasional problem with any test. Instead, we find that most people have many true -positives. In CT heart scanning, for example, we find many unsuspected enlarged aortas (potential future aneurysms), valve disorders, and aortic calcium. These are all important in a preventive program. Unfortunately, your doctor's definition of false-positive often means that no corrective procedure or operation is required.

Other evidence that self-empowerment in health is growing:

--The nutritional supplement movement. What better example of power in managing your own health is there than the fabulous array of nutritional supplements available?

--Medications moving to over-the-counter status. Gradually, more and more medications are trickling into availability for you to obtain without a doctor's prescription.

--What I call "retail imaging", i.e. screening ultrasound, heart scans, full body scans, etc. that are available in most states without a doctor's order.

--The Internet. The rapidity and depth of information available on the Internet today is mind-boggling. It will fuel the self-empowerment movement by providing sophisticated information to the health care consumer previously available only through your physician.

--High-deductible health insurance plans. If health care consumers will bear more and more of the costs of health care, they will seize greater responsibility for early identification and prevention to minimize long-term costs.

There are more. But the movement is powerful and broad--and unstoppable. Let the establishment with vested interests in preserving the status quo fuss and complain, just like horse and buggy manufacturers did in the early 1900's when the autmobile came along.

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