Leave it to a U.S. president to get medical professionals focusing on the fact that their tests are inadequate. Bill Clinton’s close call with death from coronary heart disease has brought powerful focus on whether current testing is doing the job.
Shockingly, the American College of Cardiology issued a report in August that showed nearly 90% of heart attack victims would have tested as only low- to moderate-risk if tested the day before the attack. That means common testing methods pretty much suck.
I know a woman who suffered for years from severe respiratory illnesses (even to being hospitalized) and was repeatedly treated as if she had asthma (though they were not able to diagnose that condition), until one day a combination of circumstances led a physician to look further–only to find the woman had been suffering from valvular heart disease for nearly 10 years. The heart disease caused almost every single respiratory symptom during that time, yet despite pulmonary specialists’ inability to come up with a diagnosis, not one medical professional suspected the heart. This is where holistic thinking could have made a difference: if you can’t find an answer in your own specialty, think about what other related systems might hold the solution.
The thing is researchers have discovered several new, much more effective tests for heart disease–but doctors don’t know about them.
Let’s face it: doctors are like anyone else doing a job. They’re comfortable with what they know. Change is hard for most people. What would make a cadre of doctors want to continually shake up their lives by watching out for–and keeping up with–what researchers are doing?
That kind of thing would require a whole different approach to regulating the medical profession…not a welcome thought I’m sure to those who invested so much blood, sweat and tears in becoming medical professionals so that they would be the experts, not the perpetual students that this new approach might require.
It’s tough asking people to change. If you paid with your soul to get where you are, it’s probably even harder to do it. But eventually we’ll find a way that accommodates the constant learning and doesn’t turn hard-working, dedicated professionals away from medicine.