The Nation's Health + [Self-directed health]

Self-directed health: More Andy Kessler

Healthcare

I can't help but quote a few more passages from Andy Kessler's irreverent but nonetheless insightful book, The End of Medicine. I find his quotes irresistible because I believe that he is (unintentionally) describing precisely what we are doing in the Track Your Plaque program:

"Maybe the jig is up on the cholesterol conspiracy. Any real scientist running studies on cholesterol drugs would not just check to see if participants in the study had a heart attack. You would scan, check for plaque, provide drugs, scan again, see if the plaque increased or decreased, repeat. Instead, we have a multibillion-dollar statin business based on vagaries and deception."

Kessler cuts to the chase on that one. Except we do it with a lot of things beyond drugs.

"256-slice scanners, faster than your heartbeat, just might be the magic pill of diagnosis. It's as if doctors will be saying I was blind before i could see. . . Six blind doctors feeling around an elephant and describing a wall, spear, snake, tree, fan and a rope. Looking for clues in all the wrong places. Measuring cholesterol and blood pressure is like reading the outside temperature and humidity from inside your house and guessing if it's raining. Open the window, stick your goddamn hand outside and know for sure.

How much do these scans have to cost to become widespread? $500? $100? $20? It almost doesn't matter. The savings come over time. Spread the R&D over millions and you get scale. It works.

. . . what if the spending was on detection instead of intervention? With some breakthrough, the economic consequences can be staggering. if medicine as we know it is replaced by health monitoring, hmmmm . . ."

Get beyond his humor and you see that Kessler shares our appreciation of the futility of cholesterol testing for predicting your heart's future. He advocates early detection, no surprise.

And lastly:

"I go to conferences about wikis and Wi-Fis, podcasts and blogs, and I always leave with an empty feeling, bored to tears. It's all great stuff, but technology somehow seems gripped with incrementalism. It's all really neat and cool and wow, but somehow predictable. Gee, in five years we'll have cheap terabyte drives so that we can, what, watch Simpsons reruns and shop more efficiently?

Forget that. It's all about taking control. One by one, industries are being democratized. Power is shifting from producers and service providers to users. . . Power to the people--everywhere except medicine . . . With the right tools, we'll all take control."

Amen. He's right. Taking control of health care out of the hands of the doctors and putting it in your own hands. But you are going to need better tools, more information, and guidance.

I couldn't have said it any better.