Ancient Chinese doctors were paid when their patients were healthy. After all, if you were sick, the doctor wasn’t doing his job. In this “backwards” system, the doctor’s responsibility was to maintain the wellbeing of his patients instead of to cure their illnesses.
But whose system is backwards, theirs or ours? What would happen if modern healthcare applied the same principle, and doctors were paid only when their patients were healthy?
Having worked for decades at management level positions in the pharmaceutical industry while also studying holistic medicine, I envision several significant changes.
- The pharmaceutical industry would be forced to change its business objective.
Today’s pharmaceutical companies seek to develop drugs that alleviate symptoms. After all, if they cured your problem, the drug would no longer be necessary. For patients with high cholesterol your doctor will likely prescribe a pill you have to take daily for the rest of your life. This is great business for the company that produces the pill. They just gained a customer for life! But what about the customer? Those pills cost money, and the patient’s health is maintained only if the pills are taken every day for the rest of his or her life. Yes, your cholesterol lowers, as does your risk of stroke and heart disease, but these pills have serious side effects, some of which include muscle deterioration and sexual dysfunction.
With ancient China’s healthcare philosophy in effect today, your doctor would encourage a change of lifestyle: more cardio exercise, more fibers, fruit and vegetables, and healthy fats (Omega 3), but less cheese, butter, and salad dressings in your diet. He or she might even recommend reducing stress by meditating or hiking outdoors in the fresh air. In fact, your doctor would encourage you to eat right and exercise from an early age. Prevention is the key. Don’t get sick in the first place! Meanwhile, so-called pharmaceutical companies would be forced to develop pills that addressed the root cause of your issue and cured you permanently instead of selling drugs that provide day-to-day relief while compromising other organs of your body.
The bedrock of holistic medicine is prevention.
- The healthcare industry would concern itself with real prevention.
Today’s healthcare system requires you to have routine blood tests. Again, this is good business, especially when most patients are fine. The problem with this approach is that you discover an issue only after the issue exists. Your doctor may insist these tests are a form of prevention, but by the time the issue is detected, you are already unwell.
As mentioned above, real prevention means not getting sick in the first place, while implementing strategies that preserve your health. Under ancient China’s system, today’s doctors would still recommend routine check ups, but they would be forced to pay more attention to your overall lifestyle in order to foresee potential problems. Doctors would also rely more on your body’s “signs” instead of to statistics and probabilities. If your blood test indicates no evidence of illness, yet you sense something’s not right, this may be because the illness has yet to materialize. To detect problems in their earliest stages, doctors would encourage patients to know their bodies and would take any irregularity as a signal that something may be developing. Doctors would also be free to follow their own instincts, making decisions based on the patient’s attitude and disposition rather than with protocols that bulk individual patients as a whole.
Such an approach exists. It’s called holistic medicine.
- People would be more knowledgeable about what they eat and drink.
How many cookies, pretzels, or potato chips do you eat in a week? What about candy and cake? Do you drown your salad with ranch or Thousand Island dressing? Do you slather ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise on your sandwiches? How many cans of soda do you drink in a day compared to mineral water or fresh-squeezed juice?
Under ancient China’s system, eating unhealthful foods would disqualify you from healthcare. After all, your doctor can only advise, not force you to eat and drink right. For this reason, knowing what ingredients are in the foods you eat and the liquids you drink would be necessary in order to be sure you are aligned with the requirements outlined in your health plan. A product that boasts “no added sugar” may already possess a quantity of sugar that exceeds an acceptable daily dosage. That same product might even contain artificial sweeteners. What about a soda labeled “diet”? Do you know that some studies link diet drinks, especially when consumed in exaggerated quantities, to depression, diabetes, obesity, and other health-compromising conditions?
A proper Holistic Health Practitioner would recommend only organic, natural, seasonal, and preservative-free foods and drinks.
- The practice of genetically modifying food would be outlawed.
Sir Isaac Newton’s third law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Tampering with the foods that Mother Earth has developed over countless millennia has proven to harmonize with Newton’s law, which is why diseases like Celiac, autism, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and accelerated aging (just to name a few) are more and more prominent in society today. Genetically modifying the food we eat and then expecting our bodies to adapt overnight is foolish reasoning. Naturally, the equal and opposite reaction of meddling with the foods that have nourished our bodies for eons reveals itself in the issues and conditions listed above.
In ancient China, the emperor’s doctor was put to death if the emperor got sick. That may be a bit harsh, but with death as today’s punishment the medical profession would be forced to fight against tinkering with the food we eat in order to save their own lives. Some studies suggest that over 90% of the world population is afflicted with some sort of health problem, which means that under ancient China’s system of healthcare, just about every doctor’s head would be off. We have to imagine that doctors would be working hard all over the world to turn things around.
Eating only natural, untreated foods is at the heart of a Holistic Health Practitioner’s approach to maintaining optimum health.
- The holistic health industry would replace western medicine.
Due to market demands, fast food and junk food multinational companies flourish. They offer quick, easy, and inexpensive options to filling your stomach. You don’t even have to get out of your car. Why park and walk when you can just drive through? Sitting when you could be walking, and eating food that has little-to-no nutritional value is one of the major causes of illness today. Our bodies need exercise, and vitamins and minerals, too. Spending the majority of our day at a desk and in our cars while neglecting exercise and eating fast food and junk food is like making reservations for one in a hospital bed.
Under ancient China’s system, today’s healthcare would support and promote industries right now relegated to a niche. Organic food companies, natural clothes businesses, and clean energy industries would thrive and their products would be more affordable. Healthcare services might require mandatory hours at a local gym, or offer a plan that permitted an approved amount of jogging, yoga, or swimming. Patients who avoid exercise and eat junk food would be penalized. Eating right and exercising might even become obligatory for anyone who hoped to qualify for healthcare.
Naturally, if you break your arm you need a “traditional” doctor, but the balance between eastern and western approaches to healthcare are still grossly out of touch.
Unfortunately, money is a drug of its own kind, and highly addictive. Progress, too. I imagine a company’s drive to increase capital at any cost would stay the same under ancient China’s healthcare system. But if the More Money Mentality can’t change, perhaps the underlying mechanism can.
Like John Lennon, I may be a dreamer, but the idea of paying to maintain wellness instead of to be cured is a concept that already exists. Holistic medicine is an approach to staying healthy that has been gaining ground in recent decades. Hopefully this trend will continue, and the medical, pharmaceutical, and food industries will be forced to conform. At the very least, the medical industry would be obligated to switch from symptomatic allopathic medicine to holistic medicine, which focuses on being and staying healthy.