"Individualized care" is a cliche phrase in healthcare marketing today. What does it exactly mean? For many of my clients, it means that they don't want to be given the same standard care that everyone else gets. For other people, it means they want me to take the time to listen to them as a person instead of as a diagnosis. They want a healthcare plan that is just as unique as their situation.
This can be a tall order in conventional medicine because it is based on standardized care. It is a system that is designed to treat a statistically significant portion of the population presenting with x, y, or z diagnosis. Most medical delivery systems of today aim to treat the majority of people quickly and effectively. It's a fairly good idea if you are among the majority, but what if you are an outlier on the bell curve?
The beauty of what I get to do every day is that I get the gift of time to look beyond disease and diagnoses. My visits are 45-90 minutes completely of actual face-to-face time. I don't fill the entire day with visits. For me, it takes time, consideration, and study to provide individualized care.
The diagnosis is certainly important, but there is so much more to the story than that. Innovative healthcare providers that are challenging the system of "quick and high volume" to truly deliver this deeper level of individualized care.
Let me give two examples of what "looking beyond the diagnosis" looks like for me...
First, many people have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Typically, a prescription is written for a thyroid medication with follow up monitoring of blood work and evaluation of symptoms to adjust the prescription dose. But what is beyond the diagnosis is the why. Why did the hypothyroidism occur? What is the underlying cause? The answer to these questions can be highly individual, and it can take additional testing, a very through history to scout out these answers, and time to remove the underlying cause(s). In some, but not all cases, the hypothyroidism can resolve when the underlying causes are removed.
Second, let's say you have a cough secondary to a cold and I were to formulate an herbal cough syrup recipe for you. I would not simply grab a bunch of herbs that are good for coughs & colds in the recipe. I need to know your individualized expression of that cough. Is it a dry, barking cough? Are you suffocating from the mucus in your throat? What are your concomitant symptoms? Are you feeling flushed and hot or do you feel icy cold or both? When is the cough worse--morning, day, evening, night? Is it chronic or acute? These individualized pieces are all put together to form a recipe that works for your cough. Someone else with that same cold may need a completely different recipe because how the two of you express the disease is different even though it is the same disease.
This is what individualized care looks like for me.