No matter your position on the political spectrum, it seems that everyone can agree on this: The United States’ traditional approach to health care isn’t working as well as it could. So where do we go from here?
Robin Berzin, MD, might have the answer—or rather answers. The Well+Good Council member is the founder and CEO of functional medicine practice Parsley Health, and her innovative approach to health care just earned a huge vote of confidence with a $10 million round of Series A funding this week, Tech Crunch reports. (That funding will go to expanding staff, building clinics, and building out Parsley’s digital offerings.)
Here, Dr. Robin Berzin forecasts health-care trends and explains why she’s made them the foundation of her company.
Technology and patient access will improve health care
You FaceTime your friends and family, so why is it so hard to video chat—or even just verbally chat over the phone—with your doctor? And since email folders arm you with the superpower to recover messages sent a decade ago (or more!), why is it necessary to wait on hold just to get last week’s test results? The waiting game might lead you to simply google your symptoms, despite that method being ill-advised.
Questions like those led Dr. Berzin to prioritize technology while developing Parsley Health: Doctors are available for virtual check-ins; your personal health data is available online; and you can slide into your doctor’s DMs (in a professional, physician-patient way, of course). “You now have instant access,” Dr. Berzin says, “and that means you can take instant action with the guidance of your team.”
You’ll focus on staying well
Many people get an annual checkup from a primary-care physician and otherwise see a doc only when there’s a problem. But, Dr. Berzin says that’s not ideal. Most patients, she notes, see their doctors for only 15 to 20 minutes per visit, and if that happens only once a year, it’s just not enough time to see out her preferred 360-degree view of health.
“Historically, medicine was designed to respond to urgent or acute diseases and to manage them. But in a world where 70 percent of disease is chronic and lifestyle-driven, medicine’s scope needs to be wider—or as a population, we will continue to get sicker.” —Dr. Robin Berzin
That approach—which assesses everything from genetics and diet to stress management, and can help doctors and patients together create a better path to well-being—might even help public health at large. “Historically, medicine was designed to respond to urgent or acute diseases and to manage them, Berzin says. “But in a world where 70 percent of disease is chronic and lifestyle-driven, medicine’s scope needs to be wider—or as a population, we will continue to get sicker.”
Plus, it’s actually more affordable to prevent conditions than it is to treat them. “Our model ultimately saves money, reduces prescription drugs and specialty care, and helps to resolve chronic illness.” In fact, Parsley Health members have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in health-care spending, Berzin says.
Not-so-standardized testing will be the norm
Been hearing a lot about your microbiome, “good” bacteria, DNA, inflammation, and hormones? The volume is about turn way up. All of those buzzwords are biomarkers of your body’s biological processes, and as technology improves, physicians can better tailor treatment plans for each patient. “We look at thousands of biomarkers and choose a specific panel based on the individual’s needs and clinical presentation,” Dr. Berzin says.
For instance, she might administer a breath test to diagnose the presence of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Or for a patient complaining of weight gain, insomnia, and high blood pressure, she might order a cortisol test. The biomarkers can provide information on mental health, too. A genomics test, for example, could reveal information about how an individual metabolizes and manufactures serotonin, low levels of which are linked to depression.
Prescriptions will exist, but they won’t be the first line of defense
Traditionally, Western doctors haven’t “prescribed” certain foods or mindfulness activities for patients. But, that won’t be the case 10 years from now—if Dr. Berzin has anything to do with it, anyway. “Your doctor will prescribe nutrition and meditation 10 times more often than prescription drugs but will also prescribe the latest and best medications when you need them,” she predicts. And Dr. Berzin is right, we can all look forward to a super-holistic future.
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