The Problem With Health Care

Why we need to re-think the everything from the ground up

Allan Milne Lees

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Image credit: WNYC

As populations age and as lifestyle choices become ever less adequate, health care systems across the world are increasingly over-burdened. Spending on palliative health care increases each year, yet outcomes continue to deteriorate. Citizens take less and less care of themselves, and doctors have less and less time to spend with each patient as backlogs continue to grow.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that (a) something fundamental is wrong with the way we’re approaching health care provision, and (b) we’re on a one-way path to disaster.

Fortunately we don’t need a genius to diagnose what’s wrong here. We simply need to look at the facts, understand the components of the problem, and begin to consider alternative approaches that may be far more efficacious.

Let’s begin with the core element of most health care systems: the doctor-patient interaction.

This is a paradigm delightfully stuck for our endless amusement in the Middle Ages. The doctor is the Expert and the patient is merely a fleshy bag of Symptoms. Overt power resides entirely with the doctor and the patient’s only options are (a) obedience, or (b) non-compliance.

Worse yet, the doctor has been trained to diagnose symptoms. This means waiting until the patient presents with one or more such symptoms so that the doctor can play Sherlock and attempt to deduce what the underlying problem may be. In a great many cases the underlying problem is never discovered and the doctor resorts to prescribing something that may reduce the most obvious symptoms while leaving the cause(s) unchecked.

In the USA the situation is exacerbated by the ever-present threat of lawsuits, so over-practicing and over-medicating has become the norm, thus increasing expense and metabolic impact on the patient. In the UK one queues until one is either (a) seen, or (b) dies while waiting for an appointment — which is why the UK has the lowest survival rate in Europe for skin cancer, for example.

The failings of modern health care systems are literally endless and were we even to attempt to enumerate them, this article would become a 4,000 minute read. So instead let’s…

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Allan Milne Lees

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.