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Patients Making Medical Decisions

There's been a lot of research bearing on the trend toward more patient-led health care. Here are some of the highlights.

An English chap by the name of Tony Lobl recently wrote an article published in the Huffington Post UK on a topic I’ve been excitedly exploring for years: patient-led care. The most intriguing aspect of his article was when Lobl described a future health care system as being patient centered. Instead of the medical/drug industry deciding what a patient needs, the patient of the future would be an active participant – being the final decision maker in what he or she needs. This seems like a natural outcome of much research I’ve been reading about. Here are a few trends from that research:

Patients have access to a health team – physicians, chaplains, and patients all working together, but the patient is the decision maker. (Templeton-funded GWish Project)

Conventional medicine has been and continues to be too expensive and less effective overall. (Escape Fire)

Alternative therapy (CAM) has been the choice by many, with 40% of Americans spending $34 billion per year. (NIH)

At 49 percent, prayer is found to be the most used of the 10 alternative medicines. (NIH)

Conventional medical adherents’ longstanding objection to “unscientific validation of alternative medicine” is being challenged – and the scientific community is now realizing that it needs to find ways to measure alternative medicine's effectiveness. (Rand corporation report – alternative therapies)

This concept is further explored in an article in Allnurses.com:

“During the last century, as the science and technology of medicine advanced exponentially, spirituality became less and less a consideration for nursing and medical practitioners working with ill patients. In fact, addressing spiritual issues has even been looked upon as inappropriate in some medical settings.

"But there is now substantial scientific evidence supporting the important role of spirituality in health and illness and suggesting that medical providers might be causing harm to their patients by overlooking these factors.”

Studies of health care strongly indicate that there are many in the medical profession as well as members of the public who desire changes in the concept of health care and how it’s delivered. UCLA is involved in a project studying how physicians, chaplains, and patients can help facilitate these changes for faster and better healing.

When I discussed the progress of this project with the director, she indicated that not only the functions (past practices) were of concern but also attitudes (who’s in charge). If patients are decision makers, then information sharing, choices, and alternatives become major issues. The GWish project has developed guidelines for what physicians and health care workers should ask the patient in order to obtain appropriate information about faith and spirituality. However, they are just beginning to share this information with others and determine applicability.

Author Karen Wyatt lists in this same article five spiritual concepts western medicine must embrace. Number one on the list is prayer (an alternative medicine) followed by unconditional love, forgiveness, meaning, and spiritual practice.

I have had many opportunities to experience the healing resource that resides within each of us. But my first eye-opening experience, which changed the course of my life, occurred when I was in college.

I was part of a fraternity house pledge sneak and found myself running through a dark field. Unfortunately, I tripped over some tangled wire and hit the ground with the full weight of my body on my hand, which really mashed my fingers and hand. The hand and arm swelled up and it was not a pretty sight.

My frat brothers insisted that I go to the local hospital emergency room. The doctor on duty felt it was best not to perform any surgery on the hand until the swelling went down. So a cast was placed on the arm from the shoulder to the hand and I was released for the time being.

One of the college students I had met earlier on a blind date suggested that I might like to pray about the injury. She said prayer had helped her many times.

Although this hadn’t crossed my mind, I was struck by the sincerity of her statement, so I decided to give prayer a try. The idea that I prayed with was from the first chapter of Genesis, “God made man in his image and likeness.”

As I prayed about the hand, almost immediately I felt the bones, cuts, and bruises begin to heal and knit together – so much so that within a few days I had cut the cast off and was going about my regular duties at the frat house. To this day, I can’t tell you which hand was involved. There has never been any problem with my hand despite the doctor’s concern that the injury would require surgery.

Today, that use of prayer would probably be classified as alternative medicine. Because I am very interested in our ability to heal, I have been excited to see the dramatic strides the medical community has been making in the field of holistic medicine.

As my colleague in England observed, “When we stop seeing ourselves primarily as machines in need of fixing, a more holistic approach is emerging – one that celebrates a patient's often overlooked understanding of their own needs and the best way to meet them.”

Don lives in Laguna Beach with his wife and they are both Christian Science practitioners. He brings his years serving the public in education to his work as a liaison of Christian Science, where he maintains contacts with the media and legislative offices. Don blogs on spirituality and health and you can read more at www.csinsocal.com.

Article first published in Blogcritics

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Charles November 08, 2012 at 08:32 PM
What's this "future health care system as being patient centered" and "Patients have access to a health team – physicians, chaplains, and patients all working together, but the patient is the decision maker."? That's the way the system currently operates. "As I prayed about the hand, almost immediately I felt the bones, cuts, and bruises begin to heal and knit together – so much so that within a few days I had cut the cast off and was going about my regular duties at the frat house." Yeah right. "Today, that use of prayer would probably be classified as alternative medicine." Actually, most scientists would consider prayer superstitious Tom Foolery used by gullible victims of organized houses of the supernatural.

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