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The evolution of medicine and its impact

A top Houston area physician reflects on the big changes in healthcare during his 43-year career

Technological advancement and scientific innovation have dramatically altered the face of medicine from the way it was practiced just a generation ago. And, it is an evolution of change that is likely to continue.

That is the sentiment of Dr. John V. Peet, a highly regarded Montgomery County physician and civic leader, who is retiring from his active family medicine practice after more than four decades of providing primary care to his patients.

“MRIs, CT scans and ultra sound weren’t available when I became a doctor in the early 70s,” said Peet. “The number of technological innovations that have been introduced since my generation became doctors is amazing.”

Without ultra sound and modern fetal monitors, determining the age of baby was more challenging, Peet explained. Physicians were cautious about inducing labor because premature babies were subject to serious risks. Technological advancements and new drug treatments have vastly improved the odds for infants born prematurely.

Treating abdominal pain is another area in which medical advancement has had a significant impact on patient care. Prior to the introduction of specialized imaging technology, doctors were far less certain about the cause for persistent abdominal pain.

“There were far more exploratory laparotomy surgeries done to help diagnose abdominal pain because there was no other way to see what was wrong – doctors were basically flying blind,” noted Peet. “With CT scans and other imaging technology available today you don’t schedule an operation until you know exactly what the problem is and how it is to be treated.”

While technological advancement and scientific innovation has impacted virtually all of medicine, cardiology has evolved more than most, according to Peet. Stints, catheterization techniques and drug therapies have made incredible advancements in the ability to treat heart patients and extend their lives.

Computers have also had a dramatic impact on the practice of medicine. Four decades ago, most doctor’s offices and medical facilities relied on hard copies of records and reports. Research required lengthy reviews of medical data or interaction with peers and colleagues. “The Internet and digital technology has changed that,” said Peet, “Medical advancements have extended life expectancy of Americans,” said Peet. “Death was common for those in their 70s and 80s, but now we’re seeing a lot more people live well into their 90s. I have at least five patients over 100 – and it’s all attributable to improvements in medical treatment and drug therapies.”

While Peet is encouraged by the medical advancements he has seen during his 43- year career, he believes the future holds even greater advancements and breakthroughs. Technology will continue to create amazing diagnostic and treatment options for addressing illnesses and enhancing lives. “There are a lot of hurdles in medicine, just like life,” said Peet. “You have to be flexible enough to deal with change, because change is a big part of life and it’s a big part of medicine.”

Peet’s optimism may be one reason thee of his children have followed in his footsteps to become doctors. He expects them to see the same significant changes in healthcare as he has experienced.

The Price of Medical Advancement and Innovation

“Enhanced treatment options come at a price”, said Peet.

Insurers have established more stringent guidelines on reimbursement rates and have inserted pre-approval requirements on many procedures. “More and more, insurance companies are getting between the patient and the doctor,” said Peet. “I understand they want to save money, but my goal is to save patients.”

In some cases, especially with the elderly or patients with severe medical conditions, delayed care is essentially the same as denied care. It’s a concern Peet has about the direction of managed healthcare.

Peet is skeptical the Affordable Healthcare Act will be an effective means of extending modern medical coverage to more of the public. “We will still have people who are uninsured,” he said. “It seems odd to force people to buy something they don’t want, can’t afford or don’t think they need.”

Whatever the outcome of the Affordable Healthcare Act, the need for effective medical treatment will not change, Peet said. People get sick and someone needs to take care of them. It’s a fact that existed long ago and will continue in the future.