Archive for January, 2012

Are you confused by healthcare marketing? Can you get good solid information from nutraceutical or pharmaceutical companies or practitioner organizations or nationally-known integrative medicine practitioners without running into marketing? The short answer is no, but I thought I’d describe some of the strategies I see around me – then maybe you can look at what you’re reading or hearing with more grounded and informed eyes.

Full disclosure: I am an integrative gynecologist and medical acupuncturist who is marketing her practice here in Dallas, Texas. I practice in a manner that is different from a traditional medical practice, because I’m going to explore with you what you eat, what you feel and what you think about while you eat and drink and work and play. If we work together, we will be looking at root causes for symptoms. We will be exploring what you need to potentially add to and/or remove from your body for your optimal emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. And, of course, I use this blog to talk about integrative approaches to health and wellness….and you bet that’s a type of marketing! End of full disclosure.

Healthcare Marketing Strategy 1: Marketing to the illness – You see black and white pictures of a tired, achey woman (usually) who is withdrawn from her environment because of her symptoms. More often than not the marketing is suggesting a  prescription drug to make the symptoms go away. Final video clip is of the same woman in full color this time, smiling and gardening or dancing with her loved ones. The last few frames include verbal and written warnings of an increased risk of blood clots or death or seizures. The same strategy is used for erectile dysfunction in men: here’s the couple cleaning out the garage or working in the kitchen and then wow! the scenery magically changes to a campfire with a rushing stream (wink, nudge) and a glorious sunset.

Healthcare Marketing Strategy 2: Offering Expertise – A noted integrative physician offers a “vitamin advisor” through his website. If you’re confused about what dose of Vitamin D you should be taking or how much or what ratio of fish oils you should take, they can individualize a formulation for you. Websites like these trade on the exhaustive experience of their creators, and are likely managed by someone who is paid to develop the content based on their books or speeches. Of course, the websites also sell the nutraceuticals through their shopping carts for your convenience. Is is possible to get optimal advice without a personal relationship with a practitioner? I’m skeptical.

Healthcare Marketing Strategy 3: We Have the Best (fill in the blank) – often used by hospitals or medical practices. Is one hospital better than another for robotic surgery or heart attacks or strokes? Is one medical staff better than another? Does one doctor in your community perform better bariatric surgery or lasik surgery or spine surgery than another? Here’s my answer based on 25 years of medical practice including 18 years in a traditional hospital-based practice when I was helping with quality assurance for an insurance company and working on a medical records committee for a hospital: No. Marketing does NOT equal good medical care. Marketing does not equal good bedside manner. Marketing is just that: marketing.

Healthcare Marketing Strategy 4: The answer to health is in a (fill in the blank) Lose weight with this pill. Heal your arthritis with this bracelet. Sharpen your mind with this (practitioner-done) technique. Your mental response should always be: where’s the data? Is the claim based on science? (is there a plausible explanation for the claim?) Is there FDA approval? (have studies been done?)

I’m constantly amazed and consistently filled with wonder by our body’s ability to balance and heal when a “lean, clean and green” diet is accompanied by focused and consistent stress management techniques. Start there. Pay attention to where tension and stress show up in your body. Find a body worker who can listen with you and explore posture and other holding patterns of pain. Then “rewrite” the pattern and tell your own story!

Conscious thoughts today. Conscious (noticing with a degree of controlled thought or observation) thoughts (an action or a process of thinking) today (this segment of time). Conscious of the mind chatter that starts up with the habit of remembering, planning and thinking almost as soon as I bring my awareness to the moment. The Zen saying “gate-less gate” is at once a “thing” to pass through in our mind and also a “no-thing” that acts as distractions to our own heightened awareness.

I am reading about meditation today because I am starting a meditation group that will meet each month in the new moon window this year. I am “re-minding” myself of the different paths through the gate-less gate. I have experienced this type of connection through prayer at church, through listening to or singing music in a large music hall or around a campfire, through backpacking on the Appalachian trail, through workshops and lectures, and through my integrative medicine fellowship.

There is no single path through the gate-less gate for anyone. I hope to explore several approaches and techniques and allow the participants to practice a few of them. The benefit of meditation for me has always been a clearer focus and a lighter mood. David Fontana PhD writes in his book, “Learn to Mediate: A Practical Guide to Self-Discovery and Fulfillment”:

There are four different levels of thinking. The first and lowest level is negative thought, which includes feelings of anger, fear, sadness, regret and unease. Negative thought makes us egotistical and lazy. The second level is wasteful thought, when we waste our time worrying about things that might not happen, or about things that are outside our control. the third level is necessary thought, such as “I must not forget to pay the electricity bill” or “I must remember to send a birthday card”. the highest level is positive thought, which encourages peace, harmony, creativity, love and happiness. In meditation we can free our minds from negative and wasteful thoughts and elevate them to the highest level.

There is science behind this thought dichotomy, too. HeartMath uses the combination of breath work, focused breathing and the addition of a positive thought or memory or feeling to achieve coherence in heart rate variability – a physiologic state which has shown to decrease anxiety, lower blood pressure and improve healing.

So I explore conscious thoughts today. Join me at Living Well Dallas on Monday, January 23rd for the first “Monthly Meditations in the New Moon Window”. Whether you are new to meditation or a seasoned meditator, please feel welcomed to our group. We will begin promptly at 7pm, so please plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early so you can be settled and comfortable.