AHA: Doctors don't have time for prevention

Doctors "don't have enough time to educate their patients and to stop and think about what measures the patient really needs," says Dr. Raymond Gibbons, new head of the American Heart Association.

Dr. Gibbons highlighted how the system reimburses generously for performing procedures, but reimburses relatively little (often just a few dollars) for providing preventive counseling. He claims to have several ideas for solutions.

Good for Dr. Gibbons. There's no doubt that the lack of truly effective preventive information and counseling is a systemic, built-in flaw in the current medical environment. It is especially true in heart disease.

Another problem: "If a doctor didn't say it, it must not be true." That's the attitude of many of my colleagues. Despite their broad and systematic failure to provide preventive counseling, most physicians (my colleagues the cardiologists especially) pooh-pooh information that comes from other sources. Yet, it's my prediction that much of healthcare will go the way of optometry--direct access to care, often delivered in non-healthcare settings like a store or mall. People are hungry for truly self-empowering health information. Too many physicians can't or won't provide it. You've got to turn elsewhere for it.

That's one of the main reasons I set up the Track Your Plaque program. It's direct access to self-empowering information. A flaw: You still require the assistance of a physician to obtain lab values, lipoproteins, and to monitor certain treatments (e.g., niacin at higher doses). If I knew of a way around this, I'd tell you. But right now I don't. We remain constrained by legal and moral obligations.

Nonetheless, phenomena like CT heart scanning and the Track Your Plaque program are just a taste of things to come.