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  • Cameron Oglesby

Are your doctors missing pieces of your healthcare picture?

If so, it’s not necessarily the doctors’ fault. It’s how they were trained.

According to a new study published in The Lancet Digital Health (UK), millions of people live with multiple medical conditions. The older you get, the more of these conditions (technically called multimorbidities) you’re likely to have.

Yet, the study notes, medical education and training, healthcare delivery, clinical guidelines, and research have all evolved to focus on one disease at a time.

To complicate matters, while some of the co-occurring conditions appear related, others seem anything but. In one pattern, for example, people with heart failure also often also had high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, and stable angina. But they also had osteoarthritis, chronic kidney disease, and COPD – conditions that, at least superficially, had nothing to do with cardiac health.

The study examined 4 million patients’ medical records and identified patterns of 308 clustered common mental and physical health conditions, so there are plenty more examples where the one above came from.

Sometimes, doctors don’t know about seemingly unrelated medical conditions, because they were treated at the primary care level and never made it into the patients’ hospital records.

And sometimes a treatment for one condition can create serious problems with another. For example, a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen prescribed for bone or muscle pain can wreak havoc on a patient with stomach problems or who’s taking blood thinners.

That’s why making sure doctors have a complete overview of all of a patient’s medical conditions is so important. It’s why having a healthcare advocate – a family member, a friend, a volunteer, a social worker, or you yourself – is so important. (Healthcare advocacy is also one of the services we can provide.)

There’s obviously much more to people than just their medical conditions. Which is why, at Senior Insights, we concentrate on not just clients’ quality of health, but also on total quality of life. Before anything else, the first thing we do with a new client (and family) is to conduct a thorough three-part needs assessment. This covers not only physical, cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional needs, but also individual likes and dislikes, values, priorities, preferences, schedules and interests – in short, the whole picture.

If you share our belief that that’s what a custom-design a holistic senior care management program should do, please contact us for more of the picture.

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