THE BLOG

Canada's Free Health Care Costs Us Good Health

04/29/2014 06:07 EDT | Updated 06/29/2014 05:59 EDT

After 20 years of working as a doctor, I have seen the price of socialized health many times over. Don't get me wrong, I love working in Canada, and I think it is amazing that we have tried to create the system that we have.

The daily ups and downs of the system are too many to list in this short article but instead, I want to give you another side of socialized health care that you may never have looked at. As physicians, we are usually a group of people who strive to help people. Most doctors enter the long hours and years of medical school for the explicit purpose of helping others. Few of us do it just "for the money."

After the long hours and years of medical school, there is a glimmer of hope at the end called a job! When we get out working, it can be a liberating and exciting. We get to put in place all of those long hours and late nights of study and see its effects on actual patients in the real world.

Most physicians continue this daily work without questioning the years of schooling. For some, there is little attention paid to what is really happening to the patient. Some physicians strictly go by the book and give out advice, medications and surgery as they were trained in school. When we really start to listen to the patients and look at their lives, however, we may start to ask the existential question -- "is there more going on here?"

Some physicians will actually go on for further study either within medicine or outside of the formal structure, in hope for expansion and answers.

I was invited to a breakfast meeting a few days ago, which was the impetus for this article. In this breakfast meeting were approximately thirty physicians who were practicing doctors, but whom had expanded their medical practice outside of the strictly conventional norm.

We were a mixture of physicians who practice a variety of alternative therapies including homeopathy, osteopathy, functional medicine, hormonal therapies, orthomolecular medicine, energy medicine, mind body medicine, intuitive medicine & more. As physicians who have expanded outside of the norm, we are often looked down upon, possibly criticized and even judged by our peers.

Physicians like ourselves who follow our passion to expand our knowledge base do it for one reason only -- and that is to help our patients. Within the Canadian system, this is often frowned upon as we are a much fewer number compared to the masses of conventional doctors. Within our system, it is also challenging because we are doing something that is not considered to be "standard of care." This leaves many of us charging for these services which is frowned upon by patients at large.

What had fascinated me, was that the majority of us who were at the breakfast meeting were trained in the United States. When we look at health care in the U.S. versus Canada, the first thing people comment on is the socialized health care versus the privatized system.

This is truly one of the definitive differences between the two systems. Another difference can be found in the small things. It has been studied that nutritional, preventative, mindfulness, group therapy and yoga amongst others can help to increase longevity and quality of life for people suffering from chronic disease. By helping people to cope better, these therapies may also decrease regular health care costs. These are techniques that are often paid for by some insurance companies in the United States.

Did you know that within the big Universities in the United States, like John Hopkins, UCLA, Harvard and others, there are large Mind-Body-Medicine and Integrated Health care services offered? These world class institutions know that by offering these modalities, they are giving a chance to their patients to improve their quality of life.

In Canada, our socialized system keeps this information outside of the University setting. In all of my years in medical school and residency, I did not hear the word "mind body medicine" even once. I was not exposed to the benefits of techniques like meditation, mindfulness not to mention the proven benefits of proper nutrition.

I did not stumble across these techniques until well after I graduated and was out in the working world. When we apply them, and actually see that they help patients, we start to wonder why they are not part of our learning and not routine intervention in our health care model. The bottom line, is that in our cash-strapped Canadian system, anything that is considered to be fringe, even if well-documented and studied to help is not accessed by the masses.

As consumers of an amazing medical system, I see the benefits of what we have to offer. At the same time I do see the shortfalls. I often wonder if we had a system which emphasized prevention, nutrition, meditation, breathing, routine exercise, living life from a heart based existence and more -- would we have such an expensive health care system?

In my own research within my own practice, I have seen that this type of information, when taught to people and when encouraged to practice actually saves money. I have taught patients to breathe through pain, anxiety, and grief. When necessary, I use medications, but my first line of action for treatment is almost always conservative. I use a variety of Mind-Body Medicine techniques and regularly encourage patients to go within to the resource that is right within them called their breath. When they do this regularly, and learn to understand themselves and their emotions and their body, I have seen how their entire health can dramatically improve.

Perhaps the greater hope within our health care system is expanding our own minds and arms to other possibilities of treatment. Perhaps there are things that you could tap into that you have never tried, simply because you thought they were not conventional.

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