Doc's Tips

Linda D. Bradley, M.D.: 10 Ways to Put Your Doctor Out of Business

Part 1: Health care costs drive our economy

The current economy is gloomy, but the health-care business is booming. Thanks to our glutinous western diet, sedentary couchand mouse potato lifestyles, that includes iPads, iPods, computers, TVs with remote controls and lack of exercise, doctors are in high demand. Can you please put doctors out of the chronic disease health-care business?

Our culture is obsessed with doctors. Dr. Drew, Dr. Seuss, Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil. We have doctors on the brain. Books by doctors make the bestseller lists. Prime-time television looks like an American Medical Association convention. In a culture that thumbs its nose at power, doctors are among the few people who still rate some respect and authority. People generally like doctors. They like to think that when there is something wrong with them, someone in a white coat or scrubs is going to come down from the sky and make them all better.

Well, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but by the time we get to see you, it might be too late. Maybe not too late to save your life, but too late to preserve life without chronic pain, tiredness or the side effects of medication; too late to save you from a lifetime of health worries and financial debt.

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Some people think a doctor is a utility, like the electric company, but she’s not. She’s the last resort, like bankruptcy court.

You want to do everything in your power to avoid needing your doctor. You want to see her at Dave’s, Heinen’s, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, the bowling alley or at church—but not in her office and definitely not in her mask and gown.

I don’t want to be hard on doctors. We are the finest, most compassionate, hardest-working people on earth, but there’s no reason you have to put your doctor’s children through college. And I don’t really want to put anybody out of business. But we have it in our power to transform the economics of health care. We can help decrease the $3.8 trillion spent on health care in the United States this year. Incredibly, we’re on track to spend almost $8,920 per capita. Health-care spending has climbed steadily and we spend 18 percent of GDP. Despite the amount of money spent annually, we fail to reap the benefits of a longer life, improved quality of life,improved infant mortality or decrease of chronic disease.

But wait a minute—you might say—“disease happens,” it’s “the luck of the draw.” In many cases that’s true. However, three out of four people will die of heart disease, diabetes or stroke—many of which are self-induced, chronic diseases that could be avoided by lifestyle changes.

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Chronic diseases are responsible for 83 percent of all health-care spending. These are diseases that drag on for years and get slowly worse—diseases that require increasingly complex interventions. These are the diseases that keep doctors in business. And these are the diseases we have the power to control. If we eliminate chronic diseases and embrace self-care reform, we could put millions of doctors out of work.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of “10 Ways to Put Your Doctor Out of Business.”

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