The Future of Medicine Part 1: The Standard of Care

The Journey

Welcome to the Future of Medicine series. This is a three part series, which will help you understand the medical system. I will explain how the conventional medical doctor was trained to think. This will be compared to how modern thinking doctors now approach cases.

The Standard of Care

The first part to learning about the medical system is to look at the way medicine is conducted. The mainstream medical systems in Canada and the USA operate on a principle called the standard of care. This is a consistent and accepted way to theorize, investigate, and treat a medical case.

The standard of care that we have come to know is determined by a system called reductionist medicine.

Reductionist Medicine

Reductionist medicine is the belief that the body is best understood if dissected into smaller parts. Once each system is broken down into smaller parts, you can easier target local disease processes.

The science based format of reductionist medicine ended up aligning well with a disease and drug-based system. Hence, big pharma was borne.

Big pharma’s design is to create patented medications that stop the final process, which is causing your symptom.

The results of the disease focused medical system showed promise for many decades. Examples of its success include lowered infant mortality, longer life expectancy, and lowered infectious disease rates.

Yet, recent statistics show a steady rise in the so-called “Diseases of Affluence” such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. The detrimental health effects associated with this rise are substantial.

Now, we could look at these statistics and blame it on the public for living unhealthy lives. We could argue that the unhealthy public is putting too much pressure on the system, and the health system can not keep up.

A better option is to consider this: Our medical system has spent years treating disease of individual body parts. In doing so, it has lost sight of the interaction between our environment and the being. This has led to an increasing burden of preventable disease.

A good ol’ doc from the prairies

My personal experience is as a family physician. I trained in Saskatoon and Winnipeg. I practiced family medicine in Ontario and British Columbia for a decade.

In that phase of my life, I possessed little knowledge about nutrition, self-care, and stress reduction. By in large, none of my colleagues did either. A look into the staff room of any medical office would show the same amount of sugary treats and baked goods as are in any non-medical office. Doctors are seen running from room to room in a frantic effort to keep up with demand. This is not the place for stress reduction and self-care.

My lack of regard for my health translated naturally into the way I would treat illness. Illness was determined by analyzing the reported symptoms and creating a logical diagnosis.

The diagnosis is paramount in conventional medicine. It provides the doctor with the foundation to treat, using an evidenced-based model.

When time came to treat, I would start with a small amount of common sense lifestyle advice. I would follow this with the main focus of the treatment: Evidence based medicine (which was nearly always pharmaceutical drugs).

I never took the time to ask the patient the questions needed to wholly understand where this illness came from. I did not venture down this path, because I was not taught how to do so, and nobody else was going there either. Discussions with colleagues revolved around new investigations and the newest drugs. It seemed as though our group had accepted that disease ‘just happens’ and we should start treating before it gets worse.

This way of thinking has been followed and employed by specialists as well. It is rare to find a specialist who goes back in time to determine how and why your illness occurred.

The end result is a system that is willing to accept that disease ‘just happens’. When this system sees more burden of disease, the only option is to pour money into the existing way of thinking. This short-sighted view will never address the underlying complexities of health and illness.

The underlying problem is simple. Doctors are not given the proper training or time to expertly guide a patient on health prevention.

The Story Continues

In Part 2, I will explain how a small group of doctors made the necessary ripples to start the process of change. These influential men and women have paved the way for the emergence of a new paradigm of medicine. Stay tuned!

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Dr. Rishi Verma

Dr. Rishi Verma, MD is a Vancouver-based medical doctor and a leader in the field of integrative medicine. He is the owner and medical director of Balance Medical Center and Westcoast Women’s Clinic.

Dr. Verma travels and trains extensively to learn new and innovative approaches to improve healthcare delivery in Canada. His focus is on personalized medicine and the application of genomic and proteomic testing in the clinical setting. He believes these areas will have a great impact on the evolution of medicine.

Dr. Verma is Vice-President of the Canadian Integrative Medicine Association and is a fellowship candidate with the Institute for Functional Medicine.