Dr. Weil said he prefers the term integrative medicine because it brings together all that the worlds of alternative medicine and conventional medicine have to offer. Asked whether or not integrative medicine is becoming more or less popular, Dr. Weil explained, "It's clearly the medicine people want. I think high-tech medicine is becoming more and more specialized. It does deal with crisis, with life-threatening illnesses, but it's becoming so expensive. I think for the common everyday complaints that people have, integrative medicine will become the standard of care."
Dr. Weil went on to say that the current U.S. healthcare system is in desperate need of fixing. "It's not a healthcare system, it's a disease management system, and it doesn't work," he said. "Clearly we don't spend our healthcare dollars in the right way. I mean, have you seen the statistics that [the U.S.] spends more per capita on healthcare than any other country and have worse outcomes than any other developed country? So we are doing something wrong-basically we are not spending money on prevention, education and correcting lifestyle."
Similar sentiments about the current state of healthcare can be found in this month's "Healthcare Practitioner Corner" column (page 32), where columnist Erik Goldman provides several notable statistics. First, he said, "Consider this: between now and 2030, the number of new young workers entering the U.S. workforce is expected to grow by about 18%. In that same time period, the number of Medicare beneficiaries is expected to grow by about 98%...This translates into a lot more healthcare expenditure supported by far fewer taxpayers." He then underlined the same point Dr. Weil shared with Dr. Gupta about how for the billions of dollars the U.S. spends on healthcare, it's only ranked 33rd by the World Health Organization in terms of healthcare system performance. Lastly, Mr. Goldman discussed the burden healthcare has placed on the nation's employers. "Healthcare costs to employers have increased 76% over last five years. And corporate leaders expect healthcare cost increases of 10% this year, well in excess of the 7% most say they can afford," he said.
So the question Mr. Goldman asks is what are we going to do about it. "Are we, as an industry, going to speak up and have an influence on the overall direction of healthcare in this country, or are we going to let the future be determined by other industries with other agendas, and then bitch self-righteously about it later?" he said.
This is certainly an important question to consider because the answer will likely determine the future of U.S. healthcare. "This is not about next quarter, or next year. This is about the next century," Mr. Goldman said. "This is not about how many bottles of pills or boxes of powder you're selling but about how your products can contribute meaningfully to the future of American healthcare."
When Dr. Gupta asked Dr. Weil why people look up to him, Dr. Weil responded, "I think it's because I don't uncritically accept alternative medicine or uncritically reject conventional medicine." Maybe U.S. healthcare would be in a far different place today if everyone thought that way.