When it comes to conventional healthcare, the physical body takes center stage. The inner workings of the body are enormously complex and scientific discoveries are continuously made. The scientific literature grows daily with random control trials (RCTs), systematic reviews, meta-analysis, and the like. These, rightfully, guide a physician’s treatment plans. It allows the physician to have confidence in their recommendations to their patients within a certain likelihood ratio.
When a good study is conducted, all the data that is collected is analyzed and interpreted. Within these interpretations, statistics are calculated. Simply put, these statistics provide median values for the general population. These studies will often see outliers and it’s up to the researchers to explain these results in order for their study to be convincing. This information is then presented to a peer-review body of experts for approval to be published. This hierarchy of evidence-based medicine allows for a standardized form of care. This guarantees that no matter what MD you see, the quality of care will be similar and the same safety guidelines are followed to provide safety and assurance to the public.
Now, if the data of a study shows a normal distribution, meaning the curve does not slant from outliers to the right or left skewing the data, then 68% of the population fits within the median bell curve of a particular study. Those odds are quite good for a mean average of the population. If someone said, you have a 68% chance of winning the lottery, we’d like those odds. But we aren’t talking about the lottery here.
Then, if we consider those who fall just outside the mean, statistically another 27% of the population falls within a 1 standard deviation of the mean. The lower this standard deviation is, the better. Researchers review this data and use this to determine the effectiveness of treatment guidelines or of pharmaceuticals within an “acceptable” criteria they determine. This is accomplished within the framework of how conventional medicine is conducted, often not comparing more natural or cost-efficient methods. This framework has been the standard of care model that fits the mold, although, a significant number of studies testing holistic approaches are now being conducted.
The further away from the mean value an individual is, the less effective the intervention becomes. Also, if a study was conducted say on only males, as the Framingham Heart Study, then if trying to extrapolate this data for women, you can see why this would become problematic. A study needs to be reproducible to stand the test of time. For all intents and purposes, research has protocols to lessen where certain biases can misconstrue data. Although, many argue, the basis on how research grants are determined, through affiliations, creates a bias to begin with, all such things a medically trained physician should be adept at reviewing. Also, researchers can have bias when drawing conclusions which should also be evaluated by a medically trained individual that can decipher data within the context of understanding good standards of care. What may be concluded within research does not always translate to best clinical outcomes in practice.
When we start to apply evidenced-based medicine, there are a handful of patients that will not be correctly represented in the above model. It’s similar to taking the mean average shoe size for all women in the US. If the mean is 8 and a standard deviation is set at ½ a shoe size, we see that 95% of the population is between sizes 7 ½ to 8 ½. What happens if you’re a size 10? Well, in conventional medicine, we are going to try and cram your foot into a size 8 because that is the best standard model being taught. When that doesn’t work then you’ll be sent to a specialist and a litany of tests costing thousands of dollars will be conducted and often resulting in unconclusive results.
The irony here is the foundational pillars of health; movement, sleep, healthy eating, are often overlooked. Only in recent generations has it become acceptable to not move our bodies, to overindulge on processed foods and drink red bulls and coffee all day. Let’s not also be naïve to the great amount of research being completed on how to keep people buying unhealthy, processed foods that are carefully crafted for pleasurable sensations in tastebuds to consume huge quantities. Also, there are several other components to a complex individual that are not as concrete as a laboratory or diagnostic test that can have a huge role to play in an individual’s health. When you consider the additional limitations that insurance companies dictate and place further time limits on an MD’s schedule, it is easy to understand why we are where we are today when considering healthcare.
As humans, we hold great similarities and yet we are each wonderfully unique. Unique in our fingerprints, tongue prints and especially when considering our individual genetic make-up. Naturopathic Doctors consider the entirety of your one-of-a-kind uniqueness by taking the time to not only focus on the physical body but on all the pieces that make you, you. NDs are medically trained in evidence-based medicine and standardized cares of practice as a foundation, but we also address the other pieces of the puzzle and practice patient-centered care. The truth is we need MDs, DOs and NDs to work together to offer the best patient care model to get our healthcare system back to being one of the greatest in the world. Patients deserve this type of healthcare.