We’re happy to welcome Steve Wright of SCDLifestyle with this guest post on the oh-so-important topic. Jordan Reasoner and Steven Wright (who you have probably heard as the co-host of Chris Kresser’s podcast) run SCDLifestyle.com, and have been helping people with digestive and gut problems for a long time. But they are also starting to help all the practitioners of the world and, like me, get really angry with the way the modern medical system works.
Guest post by: Steven Wright
The poor kid was crying… I stood over him with the dodgeball in my hand.
Deep in my gut, I felt like throwing up.
The rest of the “cool kids” were whipping rubber balls at him, but I froze after he looked me in the eye.
It was gang up on the “loser kid” again… and this time I was fed up.
I wanted to be “cool,” but I knew this was wrong. I listened to the feeling in my gut and dropped the ball.
After that, I was kicked out of the “cool kid” group.
Then, I became the target…
Don’t feel bad for me, I was no saint.
And neither are the majority of the health professionals in America. But what you may not realize is that, save for the bottom 5%, they aren’t the monsters we may want to make them out to be.
Since we started helping people with gut health problems in 2009, we’ve heard it all from our community:
- “Western Doctors only care about pills and seeing more patients”
- “They treated me like another number”
- “They didn’t learn anything in med school”
- “The only thing they’re good for is emergency trauma”
Maybe you’ve heard things like this too… maybe you’ve even said them yourself. I know I did back when I was sick. But, let me be clear, through my health journey, I discovered that these statements aren’t true for MOST healers out there.
I’m NOT defending bad bedside manner, malpractice, or not staying up on the latest research. But I am saying that it’s time to stop blaming ALL practitioners, and instead take an honest look at the current situation so that we can actually change it!
Suprise, health practitioners are humans like you and me. And when you put on their shoes for a day it could forever change the way you interact with them, which will change the level of service you get. If we all do it… it just might help to change the sad state of the American medical system.
But don’t commit to anything yet, first try out what it’s like to be one of them. And in this article, I’m going to be saying health practitioners – which I want to define as anyone working in the health industry – from M.Ds, to nutritionists, to functional medicine doctors, to trainers, to health coaches, all the way to mental health professionals.
Why group all of these together? Because, while the details of their days are different, surprisingly they all share the same meta-level issues and inner turmoil. Let me show you…
Today’s Medical Nightmare: A Day in the Life of a Practitioner
Imagine you’re an M.D. in modern medicine. Showing up to work, you know you have a fully-packed day. Every minute is scheduled, from the moment you walk into your office or hospital. Your staff is stressed and the paperwork from yesterday still isn’t done.
You’ll be lucky to have a lunch break today.
The patients start arriving in pain, sick, and upset. Most expect you to “save” them in the 15 minutes allotted to each appointment time. The responsible ones expect you to stay longer than 15 minutes and talk about every possible option.
Almost all of them have no desire to spend more money than what their insurance company covers and the company says 15 minutes is what you get.
The appointment starts…
Right away, you must try to defuse strong emotions that accompany their pain. You quickly scan their health history, listen to symptoms, and do some physical checks.
Now, you have 5-7 minutes left.
The patient is staring back at you waiting for a miracle. Your gut tells you, you need more time. You need to tell them all kinds of things…
But the medical insurance industry, laws, and malpractice insurance dictates what your next move is… so you push those thoughts deep inside and lock them away.
Instead, you write a prescription or order further testing and tell them to come back in a week.
There are 2 minutes left, so you quickly skirt their questions because you know you are already behind for your next appointment. You have to go, to be fair to the next sick person.
So you walk out, even though the look on their eyes is saying “Wait, but can’t I get more help?”
You now have 30 seconds to reset your mind and prepare to tackle another case. And you know deep down, if you miss something critical someone might get very sick, even die… and you could be be faced with a lawsuit at any moment.
The Nightmare Doesn’t Stop There
Later, after all the patients are gone, you have a mountain of paperwork to do just to cover your @ss so you don’t lose your license or get sued, not to mention you have to do it to get paid.
So, you do some, then pack up the rest and take it home – exhausted.
Just another day at the office.
Deep down, you feel some satisfaction that you helped a few people. But you’re depleted and then worried thoughts about the several people who needed WAY more your time begin to creep in…
But you can only feel it for a few moments before locking it back away… there’s no room for it. The system won’t allow it, plus you need to get the paperwork done and clear your head to be with the family.
Later that night, as you lay down to sleep, your thoughts drift to the text message you received that your study partner from med school committed suicide. It gives you chills and there’s a deep part of you that understands why he did it.
The Ugly Truth: This Nightmare Is Only Getting Worse
Debt and suicide… it’s everywhere in this bad dream, the health profession is dying the death of a thousand cuts and being brought to it’s knees. And it seems like everyone is numb to it. Not only that, but these stats should alarm everyone reading this right now:
- America ranks dead LAST vs. other countries in the world in healthcare (1, 2)
- Yet America spends more than all the other countries on healthcare
- America could have a 90,000 – 200,000 doctor shortage by 2025 (3, 4)
It wasn’t that long ago that doctors held a high-ranking position in society, where they were respected in the community and made a very good living. I’m not sure when it changed but based on the shortage numbers and these numbers below it’s not as glamorous as us non-doctors might think:
- 9 out of 10 doctors would discourage you from entering the profession (5)
- Average student loan debt for physicians is $158,000 – $300,000 (6)
- Doctors have the 2nd highest suicide rate (7)
Many general practitioners (not specialists or surgeons) are seeing a large dip in income and it’s not likely to recover. Why? Paperwork and red tape.
Obamacare, Insurance, and Pharmaceutical companies have confused science and art and medicine. Medicine is the combination of art and science. It’s not science only, which is why our “scientific” healthcare system is ranked 41st in the world.
Medicine cannot be ruled by numbers, formulas, and double-blind studies ONLY.
Our current experiment proves this model is only very expensive Sick-Care.
But You Know This, Which Is Why You Read This Website
Here’s what you might not have thought about…
A doctor in today’s world comes out of school massively in debt, is always in jeopardy of being sued, has more paperwork to do than most corporate workers, and KNOWS that the system is not working.
But what are they to do? Should they leave the health profession – the one they’ve felt called to work in, where they really get a deep satisfaction from seeing people get well, where they thrive on being there to help?
Not if they want to miss out on their life’s calling. And that can feel worse than all the sad and angry looks on patients’ faces.
Some of them are waking up though. Without any guarantees and lots of professional risks, they are leaving this mess of a system behind. They’re investing even more time and money into functional medicine and nutrition training and other alternative ideas.
They’re getting fed up with how they feel at the end of the day and the way patients look at them, so they leave…
Waking Up: A Day in the Life of Today’s Non-Traditional Practioner
By Non-Traditional, I mean all of you not participating in the insurance game. People like functional and integrative doctors, paleo nutritionists, health coaches, integrated physical trainers, and more…
The kind that are working against the grain to really help those of us who are sick and want to actually fix our issues.
So, let’s imagine it’s Wednesday morning. You wake up without an alarm clock.
You take a shower and brew some tea. You log into your computer.
There’s your calendar, full of 6 full-length appointments with new paying clients that are anxious to work with you.
While sipping your tea, a smile crosses your face as you open Skype to start your first appointment.
You have a full 30 – 60 minutes with each person. They get to ask questions, you get to work outside of the normal protocols and do what is needed for each person to get better.
Maybe they need help with modifying their paleo diet, or maybe they need advanced GI testing or help with their sleep. You’re free to go there and help out.
After the appointment, you upload your notes for your part-time staff, who follow the system they’ve been trained on and handle everything for the client (who can’t wait to start taking your advice).
Then, it’s on to the next appointment.
At the end of the day, there’s no extra paperwork to take home but you may end up reading some of the latest research or case studies that came accross your email so you can help even more.
Sound Like a Fantasy?
It’s not — it’s exactly what we built in our health business and we’ve helped many other practitioners do it too.
Unfortunately, for most non-traditional practitioners, this is a distant dream. And reading this might even make them sick to their stomach or really mad.
I’ve been told by several naturopathic professors that approximately 50% of all graduating naturopaths will never see a patient! Paleo-focused personal trainers are struggling, real food nutritionists typically have a day job, and functional medicine doctors typically end up failing at starting their own practice.
Why? Because they don’t have a system. They used to have the modern medicine system, but now are in the unprotected wild west of business. They have to become savvy business owners, otherwise it won’t work for them.
So, I ask you (the reader) what should practitioners choose? The stable but slow and painful death of a thousand cuts in modern medicine? Or the emotionally freeing but extremely stressful and typically short career in non-traditional medicine?
Of course there’s no right answer…
There’s also other possibilities to this nightmare. There’s very happy acute medical doctors and surgeons I’ve met. And for the non-traditional practitioner… there’s a way you can give your gifts, not get sick from stress and make a great living.
Robb and I feel it doesn’t have to be an either or situation, which is why we did this free webinar training called “How to Get Clients & Patients For Your Online Health Practice.”
Let’s explore more action steps that we ALL have control over.
How to Start Changing This Medical Nightmare
This is a universal call to stop pointing fingers and start taking different actions, regardless of what side of the fence you are on (patient or practitioner).
The modern medicine game is what it is, and it’s not going to change in the next few years. So, the faster we accept that and move to a place of seeing it for what it is and its benefits, the better we are all going to be.
As a patient, it’s actually very simple. You know the insurance game is great for acute medical care and you could be financially ruined overnight if you don’t have protection. So make sure you’re covered, but don’t expect this to help you with your chronic issues that you’ve accumulated until now.
This was the harsh reality I had to face 7 years ago when I was struggling with chronic gut health problems. After I fired my local doctors in Michigan, I ended up seeking out the best Functional Practitioners I could find and paying them $300/hour to work with me via Skype… and I FINALLY got on the road to recovery.
The bottom line for patients: If you’ve already switched your diet, started sleeping and moving more, now it’s time to shift your finances and prepare to get most of your needs met outside of the insurance model. Personally, I still keep $5,000 in what I call my “health savings account.” It took me several years to get there, but now I’m protected if my health challenges come up again. I can afford the out-of-pocket expenses for the best non-traditional practitioners, advanced lab testing, and a cupboard full of supplements.
And when I interact with health professionals inside the modern medical system I don’t ask them to “save” me in 15 minutes. Instead, I come in with specific questions and research I want to discuss with them. I consider it my responsibility to leave them with a smile because I’m hiring them as a health consultant.
And guess what? I usually get those extra 5 minutes of time that I never got before, along with all the other benefits that come from making someone’s day better.
I’m not in love with how the current system works by any means. I’m just telling you how I navigate it and how 100s of my friends do the same. We’ve let go of all the ideas we’ve been sold in the past about what modern medicine is. We’ve let go of the bad interactions with health practitioners in the past and we are in full acceptance of what it can and cannot do.
Health Practitioners: You Don’t Have to Live in This Nightmare
If you’re still in the modern medicine game, please know there are many patients like me who are pulling for you, grateful for you, and so appreciate that you read a site like this. You are the select few and should be rewarded better.
But if you choose to stay in the current system… know you’re going to be getting more and more of the same, so I want to challenge you to leave or accept it for what it is now. Don’t torture yourself with ideas of a great living, and a practice filled with happy patients if you practice mostly in modern medicare. It’s not a reality right now.
And for those of you who are working to leave the system, I want to honor you for getting extra training in functional medicine, alternative therapies, or nutrition. Do not stop there. You’re entering into the business world now, which is a harsh reality that many don’t want to hear.
The way the current game is… if you don’t have business skills, you WILL fail.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to be expertly trained at helping people, you also need to have business skills to get a constant flow of patients, clients or customers. And you need to know how to manage the business after you get that figured out. If you fail to make money, to pay your rent, you don’t get to practice anymore.
Then, people like me and the 100,000s of people who read this article (who want to pay you to help us fix our underlying health issues) won’t get the help we need.
We Need You! Don’t Fail at Business – Do This Today
All you non-traditional health practitioners, there’s three things I want you to do today.
#1. Embrace marketing on the internet. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to start getting excited about the power of the internet to deliver you clients, patients or customers. Whether you’re a local practice, a statewide or worldwide practitioner, the people you want to work with are on the internet every day, which means this is where you need to go and “meet” them. And by “meet” I mean create helpful, authentic, and interesting marketing to draw them to you. Marketing and selling done right feels wonderful for both parties. The internet is here to stay and in order to “meet” people you need to be at the “party” where everyone is.
#2. Get Specific With Who You Help. As a trained practitioner, you could likely help almost any person with a health complaint either get completely well or move them into a place of better health. And here’s the deal, no one wants that kind of practitioner anymore! The wealth of information on the internet has forever changed who patients, clients and customers want to work with. We don’t want a generalist. In fact, we don’t trust anyone who says “they can do it all” or “help everyone.” We want people who specialize in our specific issues and conditions. The internet has trained us to seek this kind of specific service.
The trend is moving towards even more specificity. My guess is that a few years from now it will be so specific that if you have right ring finger pain, you’ll search that on the internet and a practitioner will pop up who specializes in it. Specificity in your marketing and practice is actually a good thing because it inherently builds trust and referrals. Generalists will not survive. The more specific you get in who and what you help with, the faster you become successful with marketing online.
#3. Watch this free presentation with Robb. Robb, Jordan and I recorded this free presentation called “How to Get Clients & Patients For Your Online Health Practice”. Robb gives insights from his early business days getting the gym up and running. And we talk more about how not being specific leads to “The Invisible Lab Coat Syndrome” and how anyone can build a thriving non-traditional health practice if they understand the model. Of course, we give the model away and walk you through how to choose the right specific person to help on the presentation.
In the end, we all need each other. I need the emergency room doctor if I get in a car accident, I need the surgeon, I need the local practitioner… but I also need the real food nutritionist, the integrated personal trainer, and functional medicine practitioner for my chronic health issues.
I will no doubt get hurt in the next 5-10 years doing something I love, like hiking in the mountains or kickboxing, and likely need all of these types of practitioners. My hope is that we can move past blame and change the nightmare of the American medical system and that practitioners can begin to enjoy their jobs again, their lives and in turn all patients will have a higher level of service.