Advances in technology may soon make 3D-printed lungs and livers a reality for the millions in need of replacement organs.
We are closer to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease than ever before. Doctors have even learned how to manipulate our immune system to help fight cancer.
In an effort to address this schism in how we as a healthcare system diagnose, treat and—my ultimate north star—prevent disease in women’s health, I joined Tia as chief medical officer—a women’s healthcare platform that builds products, tools, and services for the distinct ne of women and the providers that serve them.
As an experienced OB/GYN, I have seen firsthand how the US healthcare system is failing to keep women healthy. This is in large part because it is comprised of specialists whose expertise lies not in comprehensive or preventative healthcare, but in the singular management or intervention of disease.
While cardiologists, urogynecologists, oncologists, and reproductive endocrinologists are profoundly impactful physicians, trained for decades in their respective areas of expertise, they are not comprehensive women’s health providers trained to connect all of the dots that comprise female health in its nuance, complexity and interconnectedness. Nor, for that matter, are most OB/GYNs.
With specialists who are often agnostic to sex, gender, or population-specific differences, we as a collective health system are failing to recognize just how different women’s healthcare is from one-size-fits-all healthcare, designed in large part by the men who have set the prior standard.
And it necessitates a whole lot more than an annual pap smear.
The numbers don’t lie.
Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders than men, and depression rates among women are also rising. The same is true for cardiovascular disease among women: Between 1995 and 2014, we’ve seen a 10% increase in women aged 35 to 54 being hospitalized for heart attacks, according to the American Heart Association.
Per research published in Obstetrics Gynecology, the US’s maternal mortality rate remains the highest in the developed world, with a rise from 18.8 to 23.
8 deaths per 100,000 births from 2000 to 2014.
We have work cut out for us. At Tia and on our care team, our response is threefold:
We first need to commit to creating truly integrated, outpatient medical centers that combine primary care, gynecology, nutrition, mental health and evidenced-based wellness modalities, like acupuncture or meditation, into a singular practice model.
Most women visit a primary-care provider and/or an OB/GYN at minimum, and more often than not, an additional specialist, such as a mental-health provider, an endocrinologist, a nutritionist, or a cardiologist—or even all of the above.
Easier data-sharing between providers is a partial solution, but what women really need is a synthesized analysis and corresponding set of recommendations, derived from specialists actually working together where the synergistic sum is greater than the parts.
We know that pregnancy-specific anxiety increases one’s risk of not just preterm labor, but complications throughout pregnancy as well. Intervening with treatments like acupuncture, mental health consultations, and nutrition can have a meaningful impact on the patient.
Invest more in prevention
This requires investment in high-quality research—particularly, on the impact that nutrition, sleep and hormones have as potent modulators of the entire brain-body interface.
They tend to have high blood pressure and a resistance to insulin, and are also at risk for gestational diabetes, hypertension and other obstetrical complications. Just as patients need better solutions for preventing PCOS in the first place, providers should be held accountable to intervene at the preventative state, too.
This brings me to our last, but perhaps most compelling suggestion: Our healthcare system has excellent programs for disease-specific interventions and population-specific medical residencies, like geriatrics, but none focused on women’s health end-to-end.
Introducing a women’s health residency in medical school—notably, beyond an OB/GYN specialty—would ensure clinicians are trained to understand women not only anatomically, but functionally across life.
Any effective women’s care program ne to involve sexual and reproductive health, yes, but also immunology, nutrition, mental health, breast care, as well as a deeper understanding of the profound and complicated influences that hormones have on a woman at specific stages of her lifespan.
Humans are, by nature, social creatures.
In the context of the rushed and time-pressured medical visits patients and care providers all too often experience, the opportunity for nuanced and meaningful dialogue is absent. Too often, the solution is too-simplistic recommendations for immensely complex problems.