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Where Does Luxury Start in Medicine?

As a medical doctor providing medical care for numerous patients over many years, I have noticed a new trend in medical services requested by newcomers to my clinic. The old-fashioned visit to the doctor's when it hurts the most has given way to wider concepts of preventive health check-ups putting the emphasis on maintaining health rather than fixing something already broken. This is of course not a new concept.

Extensive check-up programmes have been offered by many doctors and clinics for years. The market is vast, and the concepts offered are also of a wide range: from simple health evaluations at your local doctor's office, all the way to luxury clinics excluding sickness altogether from their business and focussing solely on the health market. On the other hand, insurance companies have not increased their portfolios with preventive medicine; the maximum a patient will get reimbursed for is a blood test and an ECG. The rest must be paid by the patient, and all offered preventive medicine programs do have one thing in common: they cost a lot of money. In addition, new areas of interest in ‘health medicine’ have been introduced to the world, creating new demands. I am thinking of the new IV-therapies containing expensive vitamins and antioxidant agents, aesthetic medicine shaping the image of society, nutritional consulting programs promising complete rejuvenation and even dentistry claiming that only a beautiful white tooth is a healthy tooth. My non-judgemental question is: where does medical necessity end and where does medical luxury start?

As a rule, preventive medicine must do no harm. The patient should be presumed to be healthy with no test offered causing more harm than the benefit the client will obtain from it. Standard medical protocols, if followed by providers, will ensure that (especially where X-rays and other rather harmful diagnostic agents are involved). Nevertheless, I am always surprised, how potentially harmful tests like CT-scans are being offered as a pure lifesaving investigation, whereas they should require a medical indication to be performed.

So, what is the right check-up programme? The only correct and honest answer should be that it depends on the client and their individual needs. These are based on their medical background, family history and psychological aspects like level of likelihood for specific conditions. Nevertheless, nearly everybody offers extensive packages, a potpourri of tests, whether they may or may not be necessary. Here not only are the providers to blame, but also the clients, because they themselves ask for a simple choice. But take a moment and think about it: when you are considering such a program, ask for an individual evaluation of your health risks to start with and design together additional check-up investigations with your doctor. This evaluation will also determine what is medical necessity and what is an additional benefit that guarantees peace of mind, a true luxury.

My personal interest over the last years has focussed on alternative orthomolecular medicine. I have been offering intravenous treatments with vitamins, amino acids and minerals for many years and I have been following the trend of ‘IV-treatment spas’ all the way to luxurious worldwide franchises. My take home message here is the same as above: it is easy to offer pre-designed IV-cocktails which apparently fit everyone the same way, but most clients forget that applying something directly into your blood stream cannot be done without evaluating the individual needs and health situation of the recipient. The immune system in a cancer patient requires different ingredients than a healthy 30-year-old with burn-out or a chronic autoimmune patient. So, if you are willing to spend a lot of money on IV-therapies, then allow yourself the luxury to get the right evaluation by a qualified doctor up-front, rather than a quick fix, ‘one fits all’ concept.

So where does luxury start in medicine? Is it just the price and the fancy actual trends that indicate quality in medicine and services that you may opt for? In my opinion, over the years, preventive medicine and early diagnosis without harming yourself in the process is the real piece of luxury, because health itself is the most precious asset in our lives. The clue is however not to confuse health with beauty and a healthy appearance. Choose your providers carefully and don't save on expertise. Whether you opt for a medical check-up, nutritional management or IV-treatments, get involved in the process, make it your individual journey, not a choice from a menu!

See the full article in Essential Magazine

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