On Healing

We live in a time of great progress and, simultaneously, a time of great crisis in our health system.  There is bigger, better, and more expensive technology, but less touch of human hands and human hearts.  

Most people go into health professions to offer help to suffering people.  Today, that impetus is being squeezed out in larger and larger ways.  The health system, largely due to financial considerations, is moving more and more to an industrial, assembly-line model of care delivery:  more volume, more efficiency, less time per transaction, and more computerization with less human touch.  

This model has some benefits, but my experience is, that this is killing the healing aspects of health care that are so essential to its intent, and its success.  What I see on a daily basis in the halls of the clinics and hospitals are suffering people.  This includes the patients, their family members, and the physicians, nurses, and staff members that show up every day hoping to make a difference.

While the financial demands of a system associated with costs escalating out of control need all of our care and attention, the patients and providers need it more.  The most basic component of healing is human connection.  Patients want to be heard and genuinely attended.  Families want to know their loved ones are being cared for with love, compassion, and competence.  Providers want to know they are making a positive difference in people's lives, and are doing so using the knowledge, skills, and technology that continue to make our system great.

What is needed, in my humble opinion, is collective awareness of the fact that we on all sides of this equation, are all human.  Patients and providers alike need love, connection, meaning, and don't want to suffer any more than is absolutely necessary.  Some interactions can take a few minutes and leave everyone with what is needed.  Others need more time, care, and attention.  

Many of the biggest health problems facing our society today require more than a pill, injection, or procedure to "fix."  So many of these issues arise from the constant level of stress and turmoil we live in each and every day.  Many health conditions are arising in epidemic proportions due to systemic issues like contamination of our food and water supply, introduction of chemicals into the air we breathe, and the rise of processed, packaged, and fast food.  

It's time we had some real conversations about moving from a mode of "treating," and more into one of healing.  Treating works for some simple illnesses that require minimal intervention, and many of these are self-limited anyway.  When it comes to more chronic or dire conditions, healing is what is needed. 

Healing refers to returning the individual to a state of wholeness in the context of whatever it is she or he has been through or is currently experiencing.  For instance, it's not enough to pat someone on the back after five years of cancer treatment and say "congratulations, you're cured."  No one is ever cured of cancer.  It leaves a mark, and it belittles the experience to talk about cure or treatment.  It's much more appropriate to honor and respect the journey, process the realities of the toll such a battle takes on the body, mind, and soul of the patient and her/his family.  And this is true for many of the health issues people in our society are facing today:  obesity, anxiety, depression, pain, heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, arthritis, you name it.  These are real things that impact real lives, not just a nuisance for the person or a means to reimbursement for the physician or hospital.

So, let's agree to push the issue on healing over the agenda of treating.  This has ramifications for those on all sides of the equation.  Imagine a world where care providers and patients engaged in mutually empowered decision making and practice aimed at the attainment of the highest possible states of health and well-being for the patient, insurance companies busied themselves with providing access to needed services, lawyers helped provide safeguards and quality assurance within the system, and vendors continued providing the best products at reasonable prices, which they could do because the government incentivized rather than impuned the introduction of new and novel medications and technologies into the system.

I am a dreamer, yes.  But, I'm also a believer.  I believe that in the end, we are all just human.  Humans have in our nature the desire to matter, the desire to connect, and the desire to help one another.  If you don't believe this, then simply turn on the news.  Yes, it is replete with acts of violence and warfare.  But if you step back and watch, any time there is a violent act by one, there are hundreds or thousands more responding with love, compassion, care, and asking the important questions about how to best move forward given what has happened.

Let's implore the higher aspects of human consciousness to bring healing back into our system, to offer each other what is needed rather than what is governed, and approach our interactions with more compassion and understanding and less anxiety, defensiveness, and rhetoric.  

The ball is in our hands, my friends, what is it that we will choose to do with it?

That's all for now.

Thank you.

PB-

Peter BueckerMeditation, MD