The physicians of one class feel the patients and go away, merely prescribing medicine. As they leave the room they simply ask the patient to take the medicine. They are the poorest class of physicians.
Since the dawn of humanity healing was an art which is an antithesis of the cookie cutter one-size-fits-all approach we often see today. Today’s medicine is firmly rooted in science which allowed unprecedented success in disease cure but at the same time switched the focus from treating the whole patient to treating specific medical problems based on statistical figures. The art of healing started giving way to the art of prescribing. Moreover, the healing methods where the results could not be proven by the standardized approach got vilified, forcing physicians to ignore them or even actively discourage their patients from considering additional approaches.
The numbers-based factory production approach to medicine, while effective in treating many conditions, is becoming increasingly dissatisfying to patients. Being given a pill to take and told “it helps 35.7% of patients like you” is hardly reassuring. Medication-only solution is usually insufficient to treat a human each living in a unique microenvironment and facing a complex combination of health challenges from individual genetics to personality.
Moreover, statistical numbers are often hard or impossible to apply to treatments where the results are subjective such as the sense of general wellbeing, where each person may respond in a different unique way, and where the results depend on unique interaction between the personalities of the healer and the patient and the healer’s practical experience and intuition. Not everything about humans is amenable to standardized testing and instead requires an in-depth analysis from all angles.
The standardized mechanical approach to healing throws out a huge body of empirical evidence accumulated by each doctor and shared only informally.
One such example of empirical approach based on experience is using dietary supplements. When used correctly by an experienced practitioner, supplements are offered based on detailed test results and thorough understanding of the patient. That’s why in the hands of a skilled practitioner they become healing and nurturing nutraceuticals. Their unique and proprietary formulation is tailored to address specific deficiencies uncovered by a comprehensive evaluation of the patient and specially designed tests.
Even when the results of testing and treatment can be standardized, their interpretation and application still achieve the best results when used in conjunction with many additional factors that vary from patient to patient. Learning all the additional details about each patient take the time and experience many modern day physicians lack. Pressed for time, modern day doctors often only ask focused questions only to assign the individual patient to a statistical group so they can prescribe a standard treatment.
Personalized approach goes beyond correctly applying treatments and diagnostic testing to each patient. It also makes treatment more efficient through understanding of each patient and assigning the proper priorities. Everybody is told by the doctor to eat a healthy diet and exercise more but is this general advice really actionable? In an ideal world everybody would choose a healthy lifestyle but in reality everyone has to prioritize. What is most urgent? What should be done first? When the advice becomes specific and tied to the individual’s condition, lifestyle and detailed testing, it becomes easier to follow, motivates more, and brings the desired results more often and sooner. An integrative physician can put together many factors including the patient’s nutrition, habits, mood and mindset, beliefs, and of course scientific testing to arrive at a solution that is right for each patient.
Testing also has an informational and motivational value for the patient. Will, for example, knowing your biological age on the cellular level shown by a telomere test motivate you to do something about it and try to slow the aging process? What if APOE Genotyping shows you are at a higher risk for heart attack or a Factor V Leiden test shows you develop dangerous blood clots more easily?
In spite of the shortcomings of the often narrow focus on the disease rather than the whole patient, conventional medicine with its solid scientific foundation and evidence-based approach plays a central role in the practice of integrative medicine. Often its methods are indispensable for achieving patient recovery but they usually give the best results when applied in the context of a holistic approach aimed at taking into account all factors affecting patient well-being and healing the whole person by finding unique combinations of the best available treatments designed for each unique individual.
A licensed medical doctor practicing integrative medicine and having the entire arsenal of diagnostic and treatment methods at her disposal is in the best position to bring together the art and science for maximum patient benefit.
While always firmly planted at the center of patient care, being a healer and patient advocate, an Integrative Medicine physician closely cooperates with other professionals such as nutritionists, fitness instructors, and acupuncturists. This cooperation has proven beneficial to many patients, and an Integrative Medicine physician is in the best position to find the best combination of treatment methods that benefit the patient. The art of medicine that once was being lost between statistical figures and standard treatment protocols is now finding a new life in Integrative Medicine!
Dr. Ann van Bowen