I’ve seen over 100 Medicare patients in their homes so far since mid December 2015. I ask each patient about 150 questions about their entire medical history. Whenever I ask “Do you take any medications?”, most patients say “YES. Wait, I’ll go get them for you.” and I’m always shocked to see how many pill bottles they bring to me. Many times in a big basket like the picture above. It’s my job as a doctor to make sure that each patient understands why they are taking each medication. So I ask the patient as I hold up each pill bottle “Do you know why you are taking this _______?” And I’m surprised how they scratch their head with a dumbfounded look on their face saying “Uh~, I dunno. I’m just taking it because my doctor told me to take it. I’ve been taking it for the past _____ months / years.” So I ask them, “Aren’t you ever curious why you need take these medicines? You are putting chemicals in your body that may treat an illness but also may be harmful to you.” And then they would reply “Well, my primary care doctor is always too busy and rushed. They don’t have time to explain things to me. And even if they did, I can’t remember a god dam thing because I’m taking so many different pills.”
Since I have an hour to spend with each patient, I do my best to explain everything and even quiz them on the indications and potential side effects of each medication. The patients appreciate this effort.
However, when I leave the patient, I can’t stop thinking how broken the entire medical care system is. It’s not the fault of the patient nor is it the fault of the primary care physician. We are all victims of this poorly regulated and managed health care system.
The current health care system is full of:
– Ignorance due to lack of communication between physician and patient
– Sense of lack: patients can’t afford things that will make them well, Medicare only covers pharmaceuticals and surgeries that keep them chronically ill in a stable way.
– Expensive but risky surgeries
– Dependence on pharmaceuticals that do more harm than good
– Complicated process and bureaucracy to get access to health care
– Treating diseases but not healing the whole person
– Profiting insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies at the expense of the well-being of patients and doctors: Doctors are forced to see a ridiculous number of patients to make ends meet. 20-30 patients a day. Each patient gets only 5-15min of face time with the doctor. Doctors are overworked and burnt out doing mountains of insurance paperwork while patients feel like they are merely a number. Lack of quality care due to time constraints.
– Unhappiness: neither the patient nor the doctor are happy in this current health care system.
I feel it deep inside my bones that there needs to be a fundamental change in this broken healthcare system.
The first step to make a social change is to network with other like-minded integrative medicine physicians and initiate a political movement.
Luckily this year, I got accepted to the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at University of Arizona and will be studying with the gurus of Integrative Medicine such as Dr. Andrew Weil. I am planning to use this opportunity to network with other physicians who share the same values with me and who feel that the current medical care system is broken to influence national health policy so that Medicare and Medicaid will fully cover acupuncture and Chinese herbal supplements and lifestyle medicine rather than just pay for pharmaceuticals and surgeries. In addition, there needs to be a total revamping of the medical school curriculum. I remember during medical school there being only one hour of nutrition which barely covered anything practical.
The future of medicine relies on doctors understanding many different healing modalities such as nutrition, exercise physiology, acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, mind body healing, etc. so that patients don’t necessarily need to be over-medicated and can be truly healthy and well with a much lower health care costs.
I declare that my life goal is to build a new medical school and an Integrative Medicine Center at my alma mater. It will be called the Park School of Medicine and Center for Integrative Medicine at University of California at Berkeley.
Now I’ve got so much work to do to make this happen for the next few years.
What I’m going to do from now on:
1) I’ll be focusing on building wealth through my online businesses and investing in real estate to raise the fund to make the achievement of this goal happen by the year of 2026.
2) I’m enrolled in the fellowship training at University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Center and where I plan to closely connect with the leaders in integrative medicine such as Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Tieraona Low Dog and coordinate a social movement with the network of integrative medicine physicians from all over the U.S.
3) I’ll be volunteering as a physician acupuncturist through Global Outreach Doctors organization to bring healing by integrative medicine to numerous medically underserved population in the world.
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