Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dr. Bill Frist on Individualized Care

Dr. Bill Frist, heart surgeon, business leader, former Majority Leader of the United States Senate, and humanitarian writes widely on health reform and related topics.  No matter your politics, one must look upon all that Dr. Frist does with awe, starting with work that he does on health reform, to basic science of heart transplantation; from issues of global health policy to the economic development of poor countries; from leading medical missions around the world to advancing the cause of HIV/AIDS treatment around the world; even to helping the health of the mountain gorilla.  I must add that he is also a member of the Board of Director of Accolade, where I serve as Chief Medical Officer. 

A recent article he wrote on health reform deserves attention.  In it, he points out certain facts about the individual nature of health care that are important in our health reform debates and even more important in the care of people who use the medical system.  To quote this article:

Too much of medicine today centers on the average or "median" patient. That is what "evidence-based medicine" and much of "comparative effectiveness" is all about. We test drugs on large populations and if on average the drug helps, we license it, but only at a standard dose for all. That era is passing. An individual patient is never the median patient.
At Accolade, we live this every day with our clients as they struggle through a health system which appears to be more and more focused on that mythical “median” patient.  We help them find their own voice and encourage them to take ownership of their own care helping them insist that physicians, nurses and even health administrators and health plans see them as the unique individuals that they are.   When we do that well, people receive better care.  In the end, for society as a whole, this better care costs all of us less as customized individualized care leads to fewer complications, better results and fewer unnecessary activities that contribute little to the goal of cure or control of illness.  That is the true “cure” for our health system woes.