Physician/Patient, Heal Thyself

Published on October 17, 2017

Patients: Making the Shift from Curing to Preventing

As populations around the world age, the need for disease prevention to improve the quality of life of individuals and to lower healthcare costs becomes ever-more pressing. More and more patient-friendly healthcare models that help people help themselves are being devised, supported by a wealth of technological aids such as mobile apps and virtual care centers. While healthcare professionals need to be better trained in prevention and in listening to patients, individuals need to be more rigorous in preventing disease through behavioral changes.

Staying Out of the Hospital

Hospital care is extremely expensive and should not be the first recourse when someone is ill. In Sweden, according to former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, the state invests heavily in the best resources and equipment but encourages citizens to use them only when truly necessary.

Tech Talk

Technology has a role to play today not only in improved equipment and techniques, but also in improving the quality of health management. Dr. Vincent Attalin is the co-founder of Aviitam, a Medical Relationships Management platform that delves deep into a patient’s medical history and behaviors not only to communicate information to a doctor but also to analyze the data and help him or her change those behaviors to better prevent disease. “The application is your partner in the management of your own health,” he said. Because it knows the user’s eating habits, for example, it can provide personalized advice on a weight-loss program.

The Need for Empathy

Technology cannot replace human contact, of course, but Attalin noted that it will eventually improve doctors ability to “listen and be empathetic” because they will have better information.

Human contact is one of the primary missions of Aïda, the non-profit organization founded by Léa Moukanas when she was only 15 years old. This unusual association sends volunteer teenagers to visit young cancer patients (up to 20 years of age), helps fund research on childhood cancer, and raises awareness among teens.

French hospitals initially refused to participate, but they eventually came around when patients’ families asked to be involved. The idea is to let young cancer patients be normal kids like any others. “These children and teenagers really want to live and continue living despite their disease, but cancer completely cuts them from their childhood. (…) We try to give them access to everything they would have if they didn’t have cancer.”

Changing Behavior, Preventing Disease

Simon Scrivens, a cancer survivor who has undergone over 20 major surgical procedures, was diagnosed with cancer in his 30s. “I found the whole experience appalling, disempowering,” he said. When he fell ill again 10 years later, he decided to take charge of his own care. “Patients who are engaged in their care get better faster and stay better longer,” he said. He also pointed out that “a lot of disease is entirely preventable and is largely driven by behavior.”