Wednesday, August 31, 2005

United Healthcare's Star System Sounds Deeply Flawed to Me

United Healthcare (see previous post) has created a system of "stars" to show their clients who the "best" doctors are.

This makes a lot of sense. Who better than an insurance company to provide ratings to doctors so their clients have a better idea of which doctor to pick for their own healthcare?

Well, it sounds good anyway.

However, their star system is based on the following criteria:

  • How closely does the doctor follow scientifically valid treatments?

  • How much do the treatments that the doctor performs or recommends cost the insurance company?

  • How efficient is the doctor?

Does this sound like a complete mess?

You bet.

Doctors who shuffle patients in-and-out quickly, who recommend less expensive treatments even when more expensive tests might be helpful, and who "stick to the book" even when their own judgement tells them otherwise, these docs will do great.

But doctors who pay attention to the patients even if it takes a little longer, and who make quality judgements about the right tests and procedures for that particular patient is going to be punished in the star system.

Which doctor would you prefer?

These stars will likely tell which doctors are most profitable for United Healthcare, not which doctors are the best docs for the patient.

I hope United Healthcare patients understand that.

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) Getting Much More Popular

Now that Americans are learning more about Health Savings Accounts (HSA), they seem to like them.

United Healthcare, a major provider of health insurance and HSAs, noticed this week that they've sold more than 1 million HSAs nationally and over 47,000 in Ohio alone.

This is great news. Health Savings Accounts will dramatically reduce the amount of health insurance costs Americans suffer from today. They make sense for almost everyone in almost every situation.

Click here to read my many articles on HSAs.

Whether you get an HSA from United Healthcare or some other provider, get one now! They are available from most insurance agents, financial planners, even some banks.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Break Up the FDA!

Here's what I think the solution is to the problems of corruption in the FDA.

Break it up!

Put the Drug Administration into one corner, and clean up the corruption there separately.

Then put the Food Administration into another corner, and have them oversee food + vitamins + herbs. Then clean up this corruption separately.

Whaddya think?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

In Search of the Holy Grail - Integrative Medicine

After publishing my list of the channels for this blog and the upcoming podcast, I will now explore each channel in detail.
The Holistic Health channel takes a look at my everyday focus - making holistic health the number one healthcare system in North America.
This might seem like an arduous goal, but to me it's a very worthy one. Hundreds of thousands of patients die every year at the hands of Western medical doctors, and we desperately need a better alternative.
Holistic health is that alternative.
Another word used in conjunction with holistic health is "integrative medicine." This newer term refers to the integration between modalities like Chinese medicine (acupuncture, etc.), herbs, yoga, massage therapy, etc. into the Western model.
I have seen clinics where there is a central practitioners, perhaps an MD, who sees patients coming in and treats them, as well as referring them to other practitioners, maybe massage therapists, nutrionists, yoga teachers, etc.
However, the central practitioner, or MD in this case, sees every problem through their "MD eyes" and usually will refer out whenever his MD model can't handle a patient's issues. So, in effect, its a situation where it's "Western medicine first, then others." However, Western medicine might not always be the first, best choice. Maybe the patient needs to start with a nutritionist, then do some bodywork, and proceed to the MD afterward.
This problem remains no matter who the central practitioner is - chiropractor, osteopath, acupuncturist, bodyworker, etc. They will always see each patient through the eyes of their own modality FIRST, then refer out whatever doesn't work.
An even more prevalent model is the landlord-tenant model. Here the practitioners simply share the rent and occasionally refer out to each other. The "integrativeness" is minimal in this situation.
So, we pursue the Holy Grail of Integrative Medicine. How can we achieve it? I don't exactly know yet, but I'm going to explore it in this blog and in the upcoming podcast.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Channels for this Blog and Podcast

Here are the channels for this blog and the upcoming podcast, all aspects of the holistic economy (according to me):

  • Holistic health
  • Economics
  • Renewable energy
  • Podcasting
  • Blogging
  • Open source software
  • Enterprise integration
  • Marketing
  • Copyleft
  • Podsafe music

I'll provide detailed explanations of each channel as we progress. These are all vitally interesting to me, and most of them have become part of my business in one form or another.

A New Way to Look at Codex - Holistic Health and Honda Cars

I've heard so much about Codex Alimentarius lately, I thought I should include an entry on it here on my blog.

Some Background
In case you haven't heard, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is part of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization (WTO). They have been in place since 1963, but have come under intense scrutiny in the past 12 months due to their efforts to outlaw vitamins in the European Union.
They have been backed from the beginning by the pharmaceutical industry, and basically the commission members consider themselves to be the protectors of the pharmaceutical industry.
The holistic health community is very panicked about Codex. Indeed, these are some unprecedented steps towards making vitamin and herbal therapy illegal worldwide.
There are some very interesting details about Codex history here.

So why am I not worried?

Here's why.

Vitamin Busts - Video at 11
First, imagine what will happen the first time a "vitamin bust" gets caught on videotape. Already, a major holistic healthcare reporter is calling for videotapes of these vitamin busts, so he can publish them far and wide. He has offered to pay "a pretty penny" for videos like this.
The public outcry will be enormous. The politicians will look ridiculous, and the pharma companies will have to pull back...again.

A Pitiful Cry from a Dying Industry
Second, I see actions like Codex as a pitiful cry from a dying industry.
Huh? you say. Aren't pharma companies the most profitable industry in the world? Don't they have a more powerful lobby than anyone else?
All true.
But that's exactly when the fall comes. When an industry reaches the top, that's when they get shot down. It happens every time.

The Big 3 and Japanese Cars
Imagine being Honda Motors in 1972. They were a successful motorcycle company worldwide, and had good sales of cars within Japan. In 1972 they introduced the Honda Civic into the USA. Talk about David versus Goliath!
Honda was a very small company compared to the Big 3 American automakers - Chrysler, Ford and GM. Who did they think they were trying to sell their cars in the shadow of these behemoths?
But they did. They persisted. And within only 3-4 years, American experienced the oil shortage of the mid-1970s. Honda sales went nuts (as did Toyota and the other Japanese models).

Don't Buy Them Jap Cars, It's Unamerican!
By 1980, Honda threatened the Big 3 in some serious ways. Honda's cars were more fuel efficient, cheaper and incredibly reliable. They provided what Americans wanted at that time. So the Big 3 went to work. They tried to outlaw the Japanese imports. They tried to force trade restrictions. They told us to "Buy American," even when it meant buying a lower quality car at a higher price.
But nothing worked for the Big 3.
Honda's market share kept increasing, until today when the Honda Accord is the number one selling car in North America. I live in Columbus, Ohio and one of our major employers in this area is Honda of America. They run 3 major automotive plants within 30 miles of our city, providing tens of thousands of jobs. And the demand still outstrips their ability to produce cars.

Those Poor Goliaths!
And what's happened to the Big 3? They're sucking wind. GM is losing money almost every quarter. They are teetering on bankruptcy. Chrysler got bought out by Daimler Benz of Germany several years ago, of course. Now Daimler Benz fires their CEO and is going through major reconstruction again. And Ford is probably in the worst shape of them all. I've seen the inside of Ford as a consultant, and I can say that this company is a mess. They are running scared, and they're almost broke.

Rewind to 1972
Now, rewind back to 1972. Replace Honda with the holistic health industry. It is the newcomer, vulnerable and small. Replace the Big 3 automakers with Big Pharma. They're Number 1. They have all the money. They have the profits. They have the lobbyists.
The Big 3 lost. They lost in every measurable way. They've lost all their profits. They've lost their clout politically. They've lost jobs by the hundreds of thousands. They've lost market share.

The Japanese carmakers won everything.

Can you see the parallels. Big Pharma is dying. You can feel sorry for them, if you want, but don't fear them. Don't fear Codex or the other cries of a dying breed. Let's examine what the Japanese car companies did to survive and thrive.

Be Persistent
Even though Honda could have said at any time, "Oh well, it looks like Americans don't want us here. Let's go home." But they never did. When Americans whined about Honda taking away jobs to Japan, they built plants in America. When Americans said they wanted larger cars, not just econoboxes, Honda created Acura, a luxury version of their Honda products. Sales went off the charts. Lincoln and Cadillac never recovered.

Have Courage
Something else we can learn from Honda is courage. At no time did Honda pull back and say "I guess we'll never succeed against these monsters, they're just too big." They never pulled back and they never descended into a fear cycle. And, by the way, courage is defined as having fear, but overcoming it anyway. Just because you feel fear because of Codex doesn't mean that you don't have courage. But when you let that fear stop you from promoting holistic health and doing your work, that shows a lack of courage.

Don't Try to "Fit In"
The overwhelming message to the Japanese carmakers in the early 1970s was "make bigger cars." But they didn't do that right away. It's a good thing they didn't, because when the oil shortage hit a few years later, Honda was perfectly positioned in the marketplace to sell as many cars as they could manufacture, because everyone wanted a more fuel efficient car. The Big 3 reacted slowly, and didn't start producing fuel efficient cars until the oil shortage had come and gone.

Similarly, we shouldn't try to fit holistic healthcare into the Western medical model. Western medicine is headed for a meltdown, and we don't want to be part of that. We need to create our own model of healthcare that focuses on the future, not the short-term.
Western medicine needs to be a "piece of the puzzle" within holistic health. Powerful, dangerous drugs and surgery need to be a high-quality, last resort, with holistic cheaper, effective, safer options as our first line of defense.
We also need to create a healthcare model that exists largely outside of health insurance. The health insurance industry is tightly linked to the Western medical meltdown, except perhaps it is deteriorating even faster than medicine.

Please put some thought into how we can create this important new healthcare model. We all need to be thinking about how we will make this transition smoothly and effectively, because it will happen sooner than you think!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wanted: Holistic Patient Manager for Holistic Clinic

We need a new role in healthcare: The Holistic Patient Manager.

This topic takes be back several years to when my mother-in-law was very ill. She was a life-long smoker and so had lung cancer, liver problems, diabetes, ulcers and was on dialysis. We knew it was not long before she would be gone.

Katie spent much of her last two years of life in hospitals. The only problem was: Where should the hospital put her? In the "lung building?" Or maybe in the "dialysis ward?" She had every type of illness, it seemed.

My brother-in-law, a project manager himself, noticed that the "patient manager" role was sadly lacking. The "lung nurses" didn't know what the "kidney nurses" had done, so there were often medication mix-ups and major problems like that.

We responded by posting a family member at Katie's bedside 24 hours a day! Each and every day, one of our family would catch the nurses or doctors about to do something bad and we'd stop them! Too much medication, too little medication, not cleaning her properly after going to the bathroom, every problem you can think of.

As you can imagine, it was a difficult time. Compounding this was the fact that there was not one person who we could go to with our complaints. There was no "patient manager." As far as I know, no hospital has implemented this approach, but it is sorely necessary. The patient manager would not have to be trained as a doctor or nurse, just someone with a familiarity of healthcare and a good customer service attitude.

Move this perspective to the holistic center, and you can see even more need for a "holistic patient manager." In a Western medical hospital, everyone subscribes to the same healthcare philosophy - it's Western medicine.

But in a holistic clinic, everyone is coming from different camps. The ayurvedic doctor comes from ancient Indian philosophy, the TCM doctor comes from ancient Chinese ideas, the massage therapist thinks more of the physical muscles, the Bach Flower consultant thinks in terms of vibrations, etc.

Here we need a "patient manager" even more than in the Western medical model. Someone to guide the patient through the practices and plan a system of care for them.

Who does this today? No one. I've seen only one holistic healthcare center with such a person, and she is a valuable person indeed. But that is the only example I've ever seen or read about.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"Holistic Economy" Podcasts Begin Next Month!

I'm happy to announce that I'll begin podcasting "The Holistic Economy" starting next month (September 2005).

I believe podcasting, a method of "audio blogging," is a tremendous new medium and I'm very eager to try it out. I believe it's mature enough now, being around a little more than 1 year, that I'll be able to do it quite easily, without a tremendous amount of technical tinkering. I like technical tinkering, but I just don't have much time for it these days.

Our first podcast will be titled "Alternative Medicine is Holistic, Western Medicine is Reductionist." It should be an interesting and provocative subject for all of us!

Stay tuned!

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Church of Coincidence

I realize that when someone talks to a "new age" person like me, they must get frustrated with my answers to the big questions.

"Why do bad things happen to good people?" they ask me.
"Because it's not about being good, it's about being better," I answer.

"Do we have free will or is God in control of everything?"
"Our lives are programmed, but we have the free will to jump to the next higher dimension anytime we want, by doing things that are positive and uncomfortable."

You can see what I mean. I'm a frustrating person to have these discussions with.

But even more frustrating is a discussion with a reductionist. I use the reductionist term to apply to someone who feels that science conquers all, that religion and spirituality will eventually be explained away using modern science.

Technically, a reductionist is someone who feels that anything can be explained by taking it apart. You can see how a machine works by taking it apart into its components and analyzing it, then putting it back together. (True.) You can see how the human body works by taking it apart and analyzing each component and system and then you'll understand it fully. (False.)

Reductionists were dealt a serious blow by the discovery of quantum mechanics in the early 1900s. I know several reductionists who still do not believe the well-known facts of quantum psychics to this day.

Let's play "Ask a reductionist:"

Question: "Why did I get cancer?"
Answer: "Because you smoked and the tar from the cigarettes caused a problem in the DNA of your lung cells which caused cancer."
Follow-up Question: "But why me?"
Answer: "Coincidence!"

Any line of questioning with a reductionist will eventually end here. Now, in medical science, we can add one more step before the "Coincidence!" line comes up. The reductionist will say "Genetics!" and then when you ask why you got these particular genes he'll be right back to "Coincidence!"

I heard Andrew Weil say he got into an argument with a reductionist medical doctor who said that he disliked holistic health because "It seems like it always comes done to the same advice --- Breathe!" (Which ain't a half-bad thing.)

For reductionists, though, it means worshipping at the church of Our Lady of Coincidence. No reductionist has an answer for "Why?" anything without using their favorite crutch --- "Coincidence!"

Friday, August 12, 2005

How the FDA Really Evaluates Drugs

I just realized something about how the FDA evaluates drugs.

Essentially, they look at two numbers.

A. How many people had their symptoms reduced with this drug?
B. And, how many people died or got sick/worse on this drug.

If A is a bigger number than B, they say it's a good drug. I oversimplify, of course, but that's about it.

In the case of Vioxx, there were over 55,000 deaths, right? But if there were at least 60,000 people who had relief from arthritic pain, the FDA thinks "Oh, that's okay then."

I realize that the numbers probably need to be a lot wider a margin than that for the FDA to okay a drug, but it's the underlying logic that I question.

Why do drugs need to kill people at all? If a drug kills even a few of its recipients, shouldn't we throw it out and try again?

But the FDA can't use this line of thinking, because that would throw out almost every drug in existence. They all kill people, to varying degrees. Even Tylenol and aspirin.

But then we'd all have to "make do" with herbs, vitamins and lifestyle changes. Too bad, huh?

Or, we could all just skip the whole "drugs killing people" part and move right on to the herbs, vitamins and lifestyle changes to stay healthy and to recover from illness.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

If You Love to Write...Or Hate to Write - Read This!

By now you know that I love to write. Lots of people do, that's why there are so many blogs.

Do you love to write? I've met a good number of holistic practitioners who love to write, they talk of writing a book someday.

Often they do not know that their writing skill could be a perfect marketing tool if they used it in the right way.

Article writing is an incredible marketing tool. Writing a bunch of articles and then posting them everywhere on the Internet can lead an enormous amount of traffic back to your Website. (Hint: If you don't have a Website for your holistic practice, it's time to get one.)

Okay, so you can write a bunch of articles, but how do you do the second part? How do you get them spread all over the Internet?

Let do that for you. For free.

This amazing free service allows you to post articles on their Website, and then people from all over the Web use your articles as content for their Websites, e-mail newsletters, e-zines, etc.

They must attribute those articles back to you, which means they'll be including a link back to your holistic Website.

Imagine the traffic! There are several tricks to doing this properly:

  1. Always include a URL to your holistic Website in the author box at the end of the article.
  2. Write well. will not accept articles with poor English.
  3. Write lots of small articles. suggests that you try to write at least 20 articles, but that you shoot for 200 if you can possibly create that many. Each article can be as short as 300-500 words. is a free service to writers and to publishers. So, if you HATE TO WRITE, this is also the service for you. Just include other people's articles and wrap them up in an e-zine that you send to your customers through e-mail. Voila! You have a great newsletter and you didn't have to write anything!

Remember the three keys to a good holistic marketing strategy:

A. Speaking
B. Publishing
C. Networking

See you next time!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

There's Sugar in Everything

My mom recently commented how hard it is to find any type of food that doesn't have sugar in it. Most packaged meals have a big dose of the white poison, and of course any kind of dessert or snack is out of the question.

This morning, I linked the sugar omnipresence to that "sugar feeling" in other things.

My wife was watching "True Lies" on satellite TV, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. I was trying to do some work, but I found my eyes drifting back to the TV screen again and again.

It felt like sugar! I'm trying to cut my own intake of sugar as much as possible, and I know what it feels like to NEED SUGAR. It's overwhelming. But once you stay away from it for a few weeks, it isn't so bad. I no longer need to pull over in a mad rush on State Street to get a chocolate chip-wich or milkshake. I don't eat cookies for the hell of it.

But this TV thing was a unique experience. I kept making excuses to come back to the room where the TV was on to see the show. (BTW, I've seen this damn movie probably 3 times already. Why??)

When a marketer finds a "sugar" in his product, something that people can't stay away from, they start to use it as often as possible. Sweet tastes, saltiness, exploding bombs in movies, sex scenes - these are all types of sugar. I know that sugar is bad for me, but is the rest of this stuff bad for me too? In a way, it is because it takes me away from whatever I was trying to accomplish. But I wonder what other health effects it has.

For now, I'll keep on rationing sugar and not worry about the TV type of sugar. But I really need to think about this.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Two Economies

I've been thinking recently how the Open Source Movement in software will affect the rest of the economy.

It has certainly made a huge difference within software. Linux open source Web servers outnumber Windows servers perhaps 10-t0-1. Almost all hosting companies offer Web hosting services on Linux boxes exclusively, or as an option.

The Firefox browser has been downloaded tens-of-millions of times, and it is gaining market share against Microsoft's Internet Explorer. On my Websites, I see Firefox at around 8-9% of all hits. This is up from 4-5% only six months ago.

But will the "open source phenomenon" carry over into road construction, haircuts, training, manufacturing and publishing?

I don't really think so. I think what will happen is that we'll essentially have a hybrid economy. We'll have the capitalist economy that has worked so well for so many years, and we'll have a second economy that is modeled after a socialist utopian economy, the Open Source Movement.

Please understand, I'm not using the words "socialist utopian" as denigrating to open source. I am a huge advocate of open source and I mean only that open source embodies what was always the good part of socialism. I would never expect a socialist or communist government to work in any country for any length of time. The only thing that has helped China progress in the past ten years has been their dramatic lurch towards capitalism and away from communism. "Communism in name only," as my Chinese friend says.

I think open source methods of doing things other than software will start springing up, but I don't think they will displace the existing capitalist supply chains. There will be a place for both. I believe that software, music and publishing will be most affected. Any industry where duplication can be digitized, and therefore one million copies of an item will cost no more than one copy.

America will be a country with two economies. Perhaps they will be tracked and measured separately, and certain people will be involved in only one, only the other or both.

For myself, I enjoy being involved in both.