By Dr. Kevin Keyes, DC, Founder, Woodlands Family Chiropractic
In a perfect world, physicians and medical specialists would like to spend more time with patients who need extended monitoring and counseling. But in an era of restrictive insurance regulations and decreasing reimbursement rates, that level of interaction is often prohibitively expensive and increasingly unlikely.
This is particularly true for patients with lifestyle issues whose symptoms stem from long term habits that adversely affect weight, energy, mental focus and other factors that impact overall health as well as personal attitude.
With increasing frequency, our Woodlandsbased clinic is working with physicians to assist patients afflicted with metabolic syndrome − a condition characterized by at least three of the following: diastolic blood pressure over 85, waist circumference over 40” for men and 35” for women, triglycerides in excess of 150 mg/dL, fasting blood glucose over 100 mg/dL and/or HDL cholesterol levels below 40 mg/dL for men or under 50 mg/dL for women.
Patients in metabolic syndrome are at risk of developing more serious diseases: they are nine times more likely to develop Type II diabetes; three and a half times more likely to have heart attacks or strokes and twice as likely to develop site-specific cancers.
Primary care physicians can make recommendations or prescribe medications to treat symptoms, but in many cases, patients simply revert to familiar behaviors. We are finding great success with consistent monitoring and scripting lifestyle changes that go beyond symptoms and get to the cause of these symptoms. It is an epigenetic approach in which the body is allowed to heal itself without excessive or prolonged prescription medications.
We have developed a program called “8 Weeks to Wellness” that is specifically designed to help patients who are following the recommendation of the primary care physician. We believe the length of the program is long enough to initiate legitimate lifestyle changes and begin to see results without being perceived as an intimidating commitment.
Each patient undergoes an extensive evaluation before beginning the program. We cannot manage something that is not measured, and success is noted by not only measuring but reporting these results back to the patient so they can identify the control they have on their own health. The evaluation includes specific measurements of the waist and hips, blood pressure, resting heart rate, core flexibility and strength, fat mass, lipid profile, blood sugar profile, vitamin levels and other appropriate testing as directed by the referring physician. A custom program is created for each patient based on test results and the recommendation of the patient’s primary care physician or specialist.
Among the reasons the program has been so successful is the level of interaction the patient has with healthcare professionals such as chiropractors, personal trainers, massage therapists, nutrition and stress management coaches.
By providing a scripted program customized to the particular needs of the individual, patients are far more likely to remain actively involved in and compliant with the program. Regular interaction allows the patient to be monitored, questions to be answered and positive reinforcement to be provided.
Referrals from primary care physicians are associated with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, fibromyalgia, hormonal imbalance, chronic fatigue, weight problems and complications associated with metabolic syndrome. We also work with custom programs created for patients referred by their cardiologist or endocrinologist.
The key to achieving behavior modification is regular support, motivation and reinforcement. This requires a commitment of time most physicians simply do not have. It’s easy to tell a patient he or she needs to lose weight − it’s a bigger challenge to be available multiple times a week to shepherd them through the process, answer questions and monitor their progress.
By working together, physicians and wellness chiropractors can help patients modify their behavior and work toward achieving their goals without an over-reliance on prescriptions; we can work together on achieving results by helping patients make healthier lifestyle choices.
At the end of the prescribed program, patients can assess their progress and make an informed determination of the benefits of what they have learned and its impact on their life and lifestyle. If they feel they have learned the basics needed to continue their modified lifestyle, they can end treatment. Or if they want to continue the structured program created for them, that can be arranged as well.
The complexities of the modern healthcare scene require new ideas and new solutions; the key is for healthcare professionals to work together for the common good of their patients.