Title of Cover Story: The business of healing hearts — Cardiac care is a money-making machine that too often favors profit over science
With a title like that, you might be thinking that your trusted ConsumerReports was going to provide you with information about how you can easily reverse your heart disease without spending any money. If that’s what you’re thinking, you would be wrong.
The article (See link below) led off with this opening line, “As baby boomers hit their 60s and heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of all U.S. adults, it’s no surprise that ads exploiting people’s concerns about their heart are cropping up everywhere.” Then they showed the ads that were designed to cash in on consumers’ fears:
“Find a new way to tell Dad you love him,” suggests an ad from the Heart Hospital of Austin, in Texas. “Show your love with a HeartSaver CT.”
The website Track Your Plaque warns, “The old tests for heart disease were wrong—dead wrong.” It says heart scans are “the most important health test you can get.”
“Does your annual physical use the latest technology to prevent … heart disease before it strikes?” asks the radio ad for the Princeton Longevity Center, in Princeton, N.J. The center’s website promises that its full-day exams—which can include heart scans and usually aren’t fully covered by insurance—can detect the “silent killers that are often missed in a typical physical exam or routine blood tests.”
The article continued, “Those and similar ads are not unusual. They are part of a marketing strategy by hospitals, medical centers, and doctor groups to cash in on consumers’ fears.” Then they throw in this line from a “system” doctor, “It’s a big problem,” says Kimberly Lovett, M.D., a physician at Kaiser Permanente and a member of the San Diego Center for Patient Safety at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. “These marketing strategies exploit patient fears and promote tests that aren’t necessary for most people.”
So, if I am reading all of the above, I am thinking how lucky I am to find out about this money-driven effort by our disease-care “system” to try to sell unnecessary procedures. I think that I am about to get the best possible information that will not only save me money but will also help me take the best possible care of my heart. Wrong.
Reading through the entire article, I notice that there is not a single mention of the highly successful Ornish and Esselstyn programs for completely reversing heart disease — without spending any money. All I have to do is change what I eat. But since these programs have not been adopted by “mainstream medicine,” they have been labeled “alternative” and therefore don’t even get mentioned in a highly regarded publication like ConsumerReports.
But, we now have a former president of the United States taking the “alternative” route and we have CNN telling that story to the world in primetime. For a magazine whose brand is built on helping consumers maximize value, how embarrassing for them to not even mention the greatest “heart health value” in the history of the world.
Very confusing. Ironically, they fail to mention it in their September 2011 issue, which was probably sitting next to millions of televisions while Sanjay Gupta was telling the world (On August 28) how you can reverse your heart disease by eating broccoli and spinach. If I have just read the cover article and now I’m hearing President Clinton talk about how he cured his heart disease, I am becoming very confused. Why did my trusted bible, ConsumerReports, not tell me about that option? One more line from the article sums up where we are in health-care in the USA:
Money talks….As doctors and hospitals add more and more expensive high-tech gadgetry to their arsenals, all too often it’s profit, not science, driving decisions on how heart disease is detected and treated in the U.S.
People often get the wrong tests. Good tests detect disease and lead to effective treatments. But many heavily marketed cardiac tests don’t do that. Not only is the wrong test a waste of resources, it can be downright dangerous if it leads to inappropriate treatment.”
While the article did provide a few lines on the topic of prevention, it didn’t me tell me nearly enough about what I should do. From the article, “Heart disease is often misunderstood. Many patients, and even some doctors, have an outdated understanding of the best way to prevent heart attacks.” Steven Nissen, M.D., chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, weighs in on prevention:
“Medicine doesn’t change quickly or easily,” says “It may take years for evidence to trickle down to private practice.”
Another reason for consumers to be alert, Nissen adds, is the health-care system favors expensive procedures. “Physicians are reimbursed far more for a 20-minute angioplasty than an hour-long discussion,” he says. “Those financial incentives inevitably drive clinical decisions. That’s why patients have to do their own due diligence to get the best care.”
In fairness to ConsumerReports, their September issue was probably printed long before the airing of of “The Last Heart Attack” special on CNN, so they may not have been up to date on the Bill Clinton story.
But they should have done their homework; after all, they’re supposed to be in the business of helping consumers find the best value. Esselstyn and Ornish have been reversing heart disease with diet and lifestyle changes for decades and Clinton told the world about his adoption of their program a full year before the September 2011 issue of their magazine. This is not new; it’s simply been ignored by mainstream medicine for a long time.
The Bottom Line. It’s all about the money. If there’s not much money to be made, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be hearing about it. But that may be about to change. The China Study is now in the hands of nearly one million people, the powerful movie Forks over Knives is making its way around the world, and President Clinton is reinforcing all the above with his compelling personal story. (Special thanks to Dan Liese for inspiring this blog)
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—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com
Click for article: The business of healing hearts, Consumer Reports feature.
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