As some of my wise friends point out, changing the face of healthcare is a quixotic proposition. It’s all very well to saythat your doctor should be prescribing more massage than painkillers, that insurance should cover it, and that everyone should be insured.
But as we all know, our broken healthcare system makes far more money by selling drugs and high-intervention treatments to sick people than by investing in low-intervention therapies that keep them well. Too many people have their livelihoods bound up in the status quo. It’s not just difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it; it may well be impossible. Upton Sinclair was an optimist.
So where do we start?
This is funny. Ha. Ha.First of all, like the global economy, our healthcare system is grossly overbalanced. Premiums are rising faster than our ability to pay for insurance, high rates of unemployment mean that more and more people are getting pushed out of employer-funded healthcare, and an aging population is using up more and more healthcare resources. Those who still have jobs and insurance are able to remain in denial, but the system as it stands is unsustainable.
Second, our society is changing in some fundamental ways. Communication is infinitely easier, faster and more varied than at any time in history. There are a lot of smart, underemployed people with time on their hands, and highly sophisticated communications devices in those hands.
As the healthcare system slowly collapses under its own weight, there’s a lot more motive and opportunity for alternative practitioners to set up shop, and for desperate and disillusioned clients to try them. Due to the lack of a cohesive, non-exploitive alternative system (Massage Envy: even the name is bad karma), alternative healthcare practitioners have to be entrepreneurs, if they want to earn a decent living. And good entrepreneurs know that you live or die by the number and quality of your relationships.
Because of these factors, there’s a lot more scope for new healthcare paradigms gaining influence and visibility through lateral connections, like network marketing, rather than the top-down corporate capitalism model, which requires huge investments up front.
Therefore, Bucky Fuller’s ‘better model’ is building itself as we speak. As people lose their insurance, or see their premiums rise, they’re forced to take responsibility for their own health. As network marketing reaches more and more people, they will be savvier about how they choose a practitioner, and what healing modalities work for them.
At the same time, Big Healthcare is trying to save costs by cutting payments to practitioners. Mainstream healthcare practitioners will have less and less incentive to hitch their wagons to a system which is giving them less and less, and more incentive to look around for another model.
And there it will be. People like Atul Gawande are out there backing up their common sense advice with research and documentation. Practitioners who collaborate, develop skills and market effectively will have a wider range of influence over cultural thinking about healthcare. And people getting screwed by an insane system will have both the motive and means (through relentless communcation) for demanding change.