1: How do we take charge of our health and maneuver effectively through the oftentimes byzantine healthcare system?

First, we must know and improve the “Seven Numbers” Dr. Scott Conard outlined in yesterday’s RiseWithDrew.  

These seven numbers can save our lives.

These seven numbers tell us how healthy we currently are and what we can do to improve.

2: Second, we must find a Primary Care Physician (PCP).

Having a trusted primary care doctor is like having a skilled co-pilot in the plane that is our lives. 

“There are three reasons we want to have our own, high-quality primary care doctor,” Scott and Vince Poscente write in their book Which Door?

A: We all need a guide to help us monitor and manage our Seven Numbers. If our numbers are not where we want them to be, we can work with our physician to implement strategies and tactics to improve them. 

B: “The most common cancers are now able to be detected at an early stage, allowing them to be removed and cured and saving our lives,” Scott and Vince write. 

“Colon, breast, uterine, and lung cancer all have screening tests that are important to get on time to make sure cancer is not developing in our bodies,” they note. 

We may think, “Wouldn’t I feel cancer?”

“Surprisingly, with Stage 1 and 2 cancer, the stages where most cancers can be completely cured,” the authors write, “it is unusual to feel anything, so screening is imperative.”

C: Having a primary care doctor who knows us and who we trust is critical when other health challenges arise. “In general, the earlier you discover these issues and the more aggressively you manage them,” Scott and Vince observe, “the less they will detract from the quality and quantity of our lives.”

We must not ignore problems. Even if we “feel fine,” having a doctor who knows us and our health can prevent all sorts of future calamities. 

3: The third step to improve our health and navigate the healthcare system is to be vigilant about preventing inappropriate procedures. 

The bottom line? We must always get a second opinion before surgery or a major medical procedure. 

Because we cannot undo surgery.

A sobering fact: “Up to 250,000 Americans die of complications from all these things being done every year – the #3 cause of death in the US,” Scott and Vince note.

Not only that, but major medical procedures are expensive. 

“Financial toxicity in healthcare is the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the US,” they write. “So don’t be a victim of the system.”

How do we know which surgeries, tests, and medical procedures are appropriate and which are not? 

Again, three things: 

A: Once more, “having a strong relationship with a high-quality primary care doctor is a foundation of this effort,” Scott and Vince write. We must always check with our primary care doctor before an invasive test or procedure.

The key question to ask our doctor and the specialist doing the procedure: Is there another less dangerous, less radiation-exposing, or less invasive way to address the problem?

“Unfortunately, there are few checks and balances to prevent inappropriate procedures, and everyone, from the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, pharmacies, hospitals, imaging centers – in essence the whole system, only get paid if they do things to us, so don’t be naïve,” the authors write. 

Physicians who specialize in specific procedures or surgeries are necessary and knowledgeable. 

And we are wise to realize that most of their income is generated by doing procedures on patients. 

We always want to talk with our primary care doctor before having tests, interventions, and surgeries performed.

“One quick example of this is spine surgery, where studies have found that up to 70% of surgeries should not have been done,” write Scott and Vince. A “recent survey of doctors found that over 90% of doctors would not have spine surgery even if it is recommended.

“The most common procedure in the US is knee surgery,” they note. “It is estimated that the majority of these done in men over 50 should not be done.”

B: We must “make sure we have the best doctor to address the problem,” Scott and Vince write. “Having a nice doctor who communicates well is important, but some of the worst medicine is practiced by very nice people.” 

This reality speaks to the importance of finding the very best specialist. If the procedure must be done, our goal is to find the most experienced doctor for the specific issue that is being addressed.

Note: It does not cost any more to use the best possible doctor or specialist. Our “insurance works just as well for the best doctors as for the worst,” they note. 

“Fifty percent of the doctors we could go to are in the bottom 50% of doctors,” Scott and Vince write. “Aim for the top 10% of doctors for our problem.”

C: If our company has a patient advocacy program, use it aggressively to navigate the health system effectively. 

Be proactive about asking questions. Being smart upfront can prevent unnecessary, excessive costs. “These personal health assistants have inside information on where to go and who to see based upon quality, and they can help us figure out the costs before they are incurred.” 

Scott and Vince summarize their recommendations as follows: “Remember the 3 key points: know your numbers and get them to goal; have a great primary care doctor and work with him or her to get your preventive services, chronic condition, and acute care done well; and before you have any invasive or radiation-containing test or procedure, make sure it is absolutely necessary and that you have the best possible doctor to help you through the process.”

More tomorrow!


Reflection: Do I know my seven numbers? Do I have a trusted primary care physician? If I am considering a medical procedure, have I gotten a second opinion? 

Action: Take action. Today.

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