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We manage our car better than our health

Updated: Apr 11, 2022

(this article was written on March 2017)

Imagine you own a simple car. Not the car we are driving today. A car only with 4 wheels, a seat, a steering wheel, but no dashboard. If this old car starts, you can drive somewhere. If it doesn’t, you really have no idea what the problem could be. To get somewhere, you can use a paper map to find your directions, but it does not indicate where you are right now. You are driving but have no idea how fast you are going. When you want to change directions you just hope you don’t collide. If suddenly you hear a weird noise, you wonder what it can be: Is it a tire? Are you running out of fuel? Is there a problem with the road? You might think about going to a garage. But if everything SEEMS to be working alright, you likely will wait until the annual check up. The mechanic would then listen to your (vague) feedback and rely on his experience to decide whether there is a problem. Perhaps he might just check whether you have a flat tire, whether the battery is dead or the car is out of fuel. Perhaps he might not. Finally, you leave the garage assuming the car is still save to drive. You hit the road in good faith you won't encounter a problem anytime soon. Only time will tell what will actually happen with the car.

Now look at the cars today. We have a dashboard in our car indicating the results of many sensors: Is the battery almost dead, is the car running out of fuel or oil, do the tires have enough tension, what speed are you driving, what temperature is it ouside, ... The GPS screen indicates where you are and helps you navigate to your destination. When the road is blocked, alternatives are suggested. When you change directions, the rearviewmirror comes in handy. It even offers a warning light indicating whether there is car or bicycle in your blind spot. Dashboard lights warns to go to the garage even before a problem occurs. The sensors in the car give the mechanic an overview of the health status of the car over time, allowing to discuss directly with you the potential risks, solutions, and costs. Some cars share information on the status of the car directly to the owners' smart phone. Other cars even offer an automated remote service that continuously check the status of your car. The car is being actively managed.

Today, people would never accept being clueless about the status of their own car as described in the first example. Yet our own health is mostly managed in that way: We don't have a dashboard giving us feedback on some of our vital parameters. We might have a health "destination" (cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, glucose level, fat percentage, ...) but we don't even know "where" we are on our journey, neither "how fast" we are going. The annual (blood) check up gives us a momentum view on the health status of our body. We have to have total faith in "the mechanic of our body" to take a decision based on experience that will allow us to continue on that same road.

No wonder people are also searching for ways to actively manage their own health. The popularity of Dr. Google, eating healthy, being more active, fitness trackers, alternative medicine, nutritional supplements, etc... show how people are more actively managing their health, even when we are not even sick. It shifts the focus from health care to health management. This impacts the type of relationship they want to have with their doctors. In fact, this is impacting their needs towards everything health related.


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