Exploratory Healthcare

It seems like every few days there is another "news" report suggesting that the Corona Virus could be responsible for yet another strange set of symptoms or exotic disease process. The list just keep growing, but how certain are the medical authorities regarding the facts supporting these speculations? The reality of all these health consequences pertaining to the Corona Virus is unknown. But what is known, is that fear of the unknown may be even more damaging.

The Corona Virus is novel, therefore by default, we don't know much about it... until after the facts come trickling in. But at least we do know exactly what it is, the diagnosis, u07.1, is relatively easy to determine....but what does this diagnosis mean? We know that u07.1 is a microscopic floating piece of code, possessing unknown health destroying contagion characteristics, and provides a perfect storm for rampant speculation. We have fear of the unknown.

In everyday health care, what is not novel, what is commonplace, is a patient having a specific set of health symptoms with no apparent diagnosis. The patient suffers because their doctor has yet to be able to assign an icd 10 code that would officially diagnose this person's mysterious aliment. We have fear of the unknown.

How important is the diagnosis for appeasing the paranoid mind? Exploratory surgery - a diagnostic method used by doctors when trying to find a diagnosis for an ailment. Z33.51

If given the choice, which situation would you rather suffer? Having a health disease process with no known diagnosis. Or a new, never before seen, emerging health disease process, but clearly diagnosable? The answer is clear, neither!

In theory, a diagnosis helps direct clinical therapy, based of course on known evidence based protocols. For example, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is made when a person has had widespread pain for more than three months — with no known underlying medical condition that could cause the pain. Wait...that's not really a good example.

Forget that one.

How about ADHD? This diagnosis requires that an individual, 16 years and younger, show at least six symptoms of persistent patterns of inattention and/or hyperactivity–impulsivity. For everyone else, 17 years or older, the diagnostic criteria drops to five symptoms. Wait, dang! What is the evidence based on? Another bad example.

Here is an interesting statistic. The American Journal of Medicine reported that of the 14 most common symptoms; 74% of the diagnostic findings were unknown, 10% psychological, and 16% organic. What does this mean? Of the 14 most common symptoms, 84% (74 + 10) of them are beyond our understanding of science, as we know it. The 16% that is organic is only diagnosable because the illness had advanced to the level of detection with laboratory testing methods.

The British Medical Journal reported that only about 15% of medical interventions are supported by scientific evidence and only 1% of the articles in medical journals are scientifically sound. It appears that American and the British medical authorities agree on this.

Let's put this into perspective. If you go to the doctor with a symptom and he/she gives you a prescription for some drugs, or takes out a body part; there is a one in six chance that was the right thing to do. Same odds as playing Russian roulette.

I wonder what happened to the 85% who got some medical intervention not supported by scientific evidence? Maybe this next statistic can help us answer that question. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that there are at least 225,000 deaths per year from the effects of medical error and adverse affects of medical intervention. According to the report these estimates were conservative and could realistically be as high as 284,000 deaths per year. Even at 225,000 this makes medical intervention the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer.

A big stated concern of the Corona Virus pandemic was that it would overwhelm our medical system and in essence shut down hospitals, therefore limiting access for sick individuals. What would be the reality if that happened? Well, let's look at some history.

In 1973 the doctors in Israel went on strike for a month and the death rate went down 50% during that month. In 1976 the doctors in Los Angeles County went on strike and the death rate went down 18%. As soon as the strike was over, the death rate went right back up to where it was before the strike. Also in 1976, the doctors in Bogotá, Colombia went on strike for 52 days except for emergency care and the death rate went down 35%.

We do know that for a time, elective medical procedures were put on hold. Well, in March 2000 the Israel Medical Association started a program that reduced outpatient visits and canceled or postponed many elective operations. As a result, the June 2000 edition of the British Medical Journal reported, “Death rates have dropped considerably in most of the country since physicians in public hospitals implemented a program of sanctions 3 months ago.”

Who's looking out for you? No one. Our medical system is set up to treat disease, not to promote health. There is a huge difference that is not talked about in the "news." If you get really sick then you will have to rely on medical intervention and hospitals. At that point you will probably have no other option.

Here is a suggestion: take steps to build health, not to just avoid disease. But may I also caution you to not let fear of the unknown drive your health building choices. Meaning, I do not think blindly taking vitamins, minerals, and super foods is a good enough approach. If you have a health concern and you do not know what is going on, why use guess work to find a resolution?

Using a combination of lab-work and good old fashioned physical exam findings will greatly improve your odds way beyond that of Russian roulette.

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