“Open me up.” Patients don’t usually say those words, but it’s what we should all say more often.
Open me up, so you can understand me. Open me up, so I can understand you. Open me up, so I can see and feel the universe of sensations, emotions and messages around me. Open me up to new ideas.
Open us up to new ideas about diet and exercise. Obesity is clearly a major cause of disease in this country, and diets don’t work for some people. Daily exercise — started early enough in life to be habitual — is the preventive answer, yet nothing seems to change the increasing trend of obesity in Americans.
Doctors, patients and scientists need a new story, new solutions and open-mindedness around this critical issue. Let’s open up to a universal commitment to solving the problem.
In medicine, rigidly held ideas about how health care should be funded and distributed has led to an absence of progress on legislation and of program development for improved health care. Most everyone who delivers health care agrees that there should be some common, basic level of care for everyone. This most importantly includes preventive health care — such as prenatal care, diabetes prevention, weight-loss counseling and colorectal cancer screening — so that remedies can be instituted before people get sick. Only universal coverage can prevent the uninsured from having to rely on the most expensive care (the emergency room), usually when it is too late.
Desirable as this is, very few people want a single-payer system that prevents private care from existing as well. It is private care that provides the revenue streams to innovate, create novel solutions to new problems and raise the level of health care. No government-run program — ones that, by definition, must lower standards to the cheapest possible delivery mechanisms — can reach the heights reached by privately funded care.
Open us all up to new systems that can combine both. We know we need it.
Open me up to new approaches. Acupuncture, massage, yoga and mindfulness training are ancient therapies that help promote a healthy life for many, yet most Western medical practitioners rarely prescribe them. What all these therapies have in common is a turning inward of the mind, to focus on health systems and body motions while screening out the distractions of pain, stress and injury. Open us all up to receiving instruction about ourselves and to knowing how to teach others.
Open me up to listening, hearing and seeing you better. You are my partners, friends, patients and loves in life. If we could only sense each other’s messages and desires before they are ignored, or worse boil over into frustration and anger, we would be infinitely enriched each day.
Try a simple experiment: Instead of meeting someone today and saying, “Hi, how are you?” (and not really hearing or caring about the answer), try, “Hi, how am I?”
What you’re really asking is, “How are we doing together?” or “What can we do together in this shared life?”
Your interest in hearing, and their honesty in answering, will start the habit of “open me up.” It’s remarkable what you may find within yourself, and how much you may receive from others.
Let’s all open up to letting go of ideology and facing the world with expansive new shared solutions.
Dr. Kevin R. Stone is an orthopedic surgeon at The Stone Clinic and chairman of the Stone Research Foundation in San Francisco.