Read an Excerpt
People use the following call for wisdom as a way to guide many of their decisions, and it may help you attain better results from a healthcare system that often provides poor outcomes at a high cost:
'. . . grant me the serenity to accept the things
I cannot change; courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.'
If you have a compelling need to control your circumstances like I do, you know that the need for control can lead to a great deal of suffering. I definitely have the so-called type A personality. Those who know me have described me as intense, driven, and achieving. This nature is both a blessing and a curse. I get a lot done, but I also tend to have a hard time letting go. However, we must know when it's time to take action, and we must know when it's time to let go of the situation and trust that it will work out.
This book is about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. Learning more about our healthcare system and how best to navigate it in its current form is critical for getting there. This involves learning how to work more effectively and efficiently within our healthcare system, as well as learning how to rely on it less.
These days, a lot of Americans seem to want to use the healthcare system to control their health as thoroughly as possible. Many people have come to see health care as the end-all solution to a life free of illness and discomfort. It's not. The healthcare system can accomplish great results. But it simply cannot change certain things. A lifetime of poor lifestyle decisions can't be undone by a trip to the doctor's office or emergency room, for example.
On the other hand, a lot of people don't realize that they have great power to change their own health. The way they eat, the way they use their bodies, and the way they maintain their outlook on the world can often do much more to maintain their health and prevent disease than the healthcare system can.
And harnessing the power of our healthcare resources to do the most good requires accepting the problems that surgery and medications can't change, having the courage to work on the problems that we can change on our own, and gaining the wisdom to know the difference between the two.
I hope this book helps you get there.
Some people are dancers, born to dance. Others are born to cook and subsequently become chefs. I communicate. When I was interviewing for entrance into medical school, one of the faculty remarked on my essay, saying that he thought I should reconsider my career path and become a writer. I was quite offended, as it had been my lifelong goal to become a physician, like my father. But his words stuck in my head, and I have since evolved into a hybrid of the two.
When I was fresh out of residency in my full-time traditional family practice, I instinctively knew that people needed more than the communication that occurred at the office visit itself. I began to create a library of information—one-page memos on a variety of conditions that I could give the patient to take home to read. It was later that I became familiar with research that backs up the notion that people only retain a fraction of the information received during a medical visit, with a percentage of that understood incorrectly.
Later, after I'd become managing editor of a professional newswire for healthcare professionals, I began to realize again how fallible medicine can be, and how good health so often lies squarely within our control. If I could just pull back the curtain and show readers how small actions and lifestyle tweaks could overhaul their health and require less intervention from the healthcare system, people would be empowered to take action.
My wish for you: never be a patient. Once you see yourself as a patient—in other words, someone who is sick—that identity can take over your life. Instead, be a seeker of health. And focus on what is right in front of you. Thinking too far down the road and worrying about what may or may not come is overwhelming and can set you up for failure. There are opportunities every moment to make healthful decisions, and over time this string of beneficial choices makes a real impact.
Mindfulness—in other words, taking deliberate actions and paying more attention to your health and current surroundings
—will help you get better health for less money and with less use of healthcare services.
Still, the ultimate challenge of the serenity prayer remains: how do you know the difference between the problems that the healthcare system can and can't change? Let us help you discover it for yourself, with this new way of finding better health with less expense.
To the journey,
Dr. Cindy Haines