I was shocked to see that the NHS could ban surgery for the obese and smokers. That’s socialized medicine. You take a conglomerate group of people (the UK) on a limited budget for healthcare… and basically find the cheapest most cost-effective way to deliver healthcare. But in a way, it’s empowering patients to take responsibility for their own health. Smoking, for sure — I agree 100% that surgery should be banned for this population. Obesity is a bit trickier — there’s genetics and environmental factors at play in this one. I don’t think anyone chooses to be obese. But, people do have the power to change their eating and exercise habits. Despite these efforts, there are some people who are still obese…. and these people should not be faulted.
Why single out the obese and smokers?
Smokers and the obese have elevated surgical risk and mortality, which means more cost to treat and hospitalize and provide ongoing care.
I think the NHS is on to something here. They’re opening doors to moving the liability and responsibility away from physicians and towards patients. This is a plus. Outsiders may see it as separatism and elitist to only provide care for people who are healthy. But look at the facts and the data…. obesity has a lot of co-morbidities associated. Smoking has a lot of co-morbidities associated as well. Why should physicians be penalized for re-admissions, poor wound healing, longer hospitalizations when the underlying conditions themselves are already challenging enough? In fact, I would urge insurance companies to provide incentives to patients/the insured with discounted rates for good and maintained health and wellness. With all the technologies, medications, and information out there, it’s time patients take responsibility for their own health. I take responsibility for mine — watching my diet, exercising, working on getting enough rest, maintaining activities to keep my mind and body engaged, meditating for rest and relaxation. It’s not easy, but my health is 100% my responsibility. I refuse to pass the buck to my husband, my family, my physician, etc. I do what I can to optimize my health and future — and if that doesn’t work… I call for backup.
Patients need to change their mindset re: health. It is not your spouse’s responsibility to track your meds. It is your responsibility to know your medical conditions and surgical history. The single most important (and thoughtful) thing a patient can do is keep an up-to-date list of medications, past/current medical history, surgical history, and allergies to bring to every doctor’s appointment and surgery. This helps streamline and bring to the forefront your conditions and how these will interplay with your medical and surgical plan and postoperative care. Please do not forget recreational drugs, smoking habit, and drinking habit in this list. It is very important to know all of these things. Also, your emotional history is very important. Depression, anxiety, failure to cope, etc. This all helps tie in your current living situation with stressors and your medical history.
Links for educating yourself in taking responsibility for your health:
Trends are evolving in decreasing intraoperative and postoperative opioid use. Therefore, anesthesiologists are constantly learning new regional techniques to help with postoperative pain. For shoulder surgeries, I’ve moved away from interscalene blocks toward supraclavicular blocks. I think the interscalene block provides a better block of a total shoulder surgery, however, certain patient comorbidities often make the supraclavicular block a better choice.