Today marks the one-year anniversary of the official launch of Integrated MD Care (IMDC.) The practice actually began a few months earlier, when I was still hedging and working at my “job,” but on January 1, 2016, I gave up that safety net and went all in, trusting that people would recognize the benefits of the new model of care.
As with many new ventures, the practice has grown more slowly than I’d predicted (I’m always the optimist!) but as the first year winds down, I can confidently report that we have made a profoundly positive impact on the lives of many people in San Diego and beyond, and the future of IMDC looks very promising (big sigh!)
I have learned much about delivering medical care at a new level. Perhaps the most profound lesson has been recognizing the great importance of being there and caring for the family members and loved ones of our patients. They are the unsung heroes, and often at significant risk from the overwhelming stress of caregiving. I’ve learned that supporting the entire family is the key to providing great care.
The past year has blessed me with many new friendships, including my patients (some who are still living and some who are not), their family members and loved ones, members of my team and people I’ve met out in the community. My life is far richer and complete as a result of these relationships and experiences. I feel that I have found my true calling and am fulfilling my true purpose. Who could ask for anything more?
As a result of my practice, I have been blessed to work collaboratively with some incredibly talented, intelligent, committed and passionate people, including the members of my Integrated MD Care team, other healthcare providers, and community members who are dedicated to improving the lives of the elderly, the ill and the dying.
While I am deeply grateful for the work I get to do, I am also very disturbed by what I see happening, and not happening, in the healthcare arena- especially for those who are elderly, ill or dying.
There is a public health crisis that most people are unaware of, and only when they find themselves in the midst of that crisis do they realize what’s happening. By then, it can be too late to change things.
Before I go on, here is my disclaimer: There are many brilliant, compassionate, dedicated individuals at all levels of healthcare and most of them are doing the best they can under challenging circumstances. I’m awed by many of them. The people are not the problem. It is the healthcare “system,” driven by politics and profit, that is the villain in this story.
People’s human rights are being violated every day, in every community, and I am no longer comfortable standing by and be silent. It’s time to speak out and tell people what I see, and what I believe.
- It is a violation of human rights to keep people in the dark about their health conditions and prognosis when what they need is honest and open communication from their doctors.
- It is a violation of human rights to continue doing tests, procedures, and treatments on people who will derive no benefit (and will often be harmed) just because these tests, procedures and treatments are available and revenue will be generated from them.
- It is a violation of human rights to reflexively send people to nursing homes instead of finding creative ways to provide appropriate care for them in the comfort of their homes.
- It is a violation of human rights to force patients and family members to figure out how to advocate for themselves and navigate the chaotic and complex healthcare system, especially when they are already stressed to the breaking point by a serious illness.
- It is a violation of human rights to direct patients to go on hospice care, giving up certain treatment options and access to appropriate care, without ensuring that they are fully aware of, and accepting of, the implications of going on hospice care.
- It is a violation of human rights to deny people with terminal illnesses access to medication that will allow them to have a peaceful and dignified death, at a time and place of their choosing.
- Many of you will have some of your own human rights violations related to healthcare to add to this list.
While I am passionate about providing excellent medical care, the path I’m on goes beyond just trying to be a good doctor.
It’s about helping to bring about necessary change. It’s about protecting people’s rights and dignity by bringing greater awareness to these issues and by collaborating with others to find meaningful solutions.
During the upcoming year I will be a passionate voice for more appropriate, holistic, person-centered care for people facing challenging and life-limiting illnesses. I’ve seen how beautifully the kind of care provided through IMDC supports people, though for now it is only available to those who can afford to pay for it. In addition to expanding the model for those who can afford it, I am committed to establishing a foundation to make this type of care available for people who can’t afford it.
If you believe these issues are important to address, if you have had personal or professional experiences that cause you to resonate with this, if you want to somehow join the movement and be an agent of change yourself, please share this post, please connect with me and tell me your story, please help spread the word and help us gather momentum, so collectively we can change the way healthcare is delivered to people with complex and terminal illness.