Medicine and Health

What does the future of American healthcare look like?
Answered by Dr. Dean Ornish, Andrew Weil M.D. and 1 other
  • Dr. Dean Ornish

    Dr. Dean Ornish

  • Andrew Weil M.D.

    Andrew Weil M.D.

  • David Kelley

    David Kelley

  1. Dr. Dean Ornish Founder and President, Preventive Medicine Research Institute


    I'm hopeful and optimistic by nature, because when I was profoundly depressed, that doesn't really go anywhere that you want to go. It's very dark. I find that so often the expectation can be self fulfilling, so I tend to remain optimistic. But we have a lot of challenges ahead of us.

    I'm on the board of the San Francisco Food Bank because one out of five people here in the Bay Area goes to bed hungry. That's crazy. The issue is not a lack of food, it's a lack of distribution and the crazy, perverse incentives that we have right now.

    The same is true for healthcare. Health isn't something that we generally get. It's something that we have already. Just like our peace of mind isn't something we get, it's something we have already until we disturb it. I'm optimistic that there's a convergence of forces now that make change really ripe that I haven't seen for the last three decades I've been doing this work. The limitations of high-tech medicine are becoming clearer. The drugs and surgery don't work nearly as well in most cases as people thought. The power of these low-tech interventions, like what we're doing, has also become increasingly well-documented. The costs are reaching a tipping point for employers.

    I worked with Steven Burd at Safeway five years ago because they were spending -- he approached me and said, "We're spending 120 percent of our net revenues on healthcare for our employees. That's not sustainable." Howard Schultz at Starbucks said, "We spend more money for healthcare for our employees than we do for coffee beans." Mars Candy spends more than they do for sugar. General Motors spends more than they do for steel. That's not sustainable. It used to be in the human resources department. Now, it's at the CEO level.

    The costs in the country are reaching a tipping point with the deficit being what it is. You can talk about getting rid of earmarks and things like that, but the real issue is around Medicare. Now, the proposals are, are we going to keep Medicare the way it is, or are we going to cut it back and privatize it? Neither one of those are very good choices. Again, if 75 percent of the $2.6 trillion in healthcare costs are from chronic diseases that can be largely prevented or reversed by changing lifestyle, that's where the real action is. That's where the real opportunity is.

    I think it was Winston Churchill who once said, "Americans will always do the right thing after they've exhausted every other possibility," and so I'm optimistic in the sense that I think that we will get to that point, but I think it's going to take a while.

    Otherwise, the country is already going broke. I've been talking with a number of large corporations who also are realizing this where they need to be going as well because that's where the opportunity is.

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  2. Andrew Weil M.D. Best-Selling Author, Speaker & Integrative Medicine Thought-Leader


    I think the future of medicine is going probably in more than one direction. Certainly, there will be a continued development of technological medicine, and I think some aspects of that would be great.

    I think the work in genomics -- and in particularly in being able to individualize treatment based on genetic individuality -- that's an area of tremendous promise. Targeted therapies and preventative strategies as well. It may be that certain genomes are going to respond to a low‑fat diet. Others aren't. That's something that would be very useful to know.

    I really do see integrated medicine as becoming mainstream in the very near future. It offers the promise of lowering healthcare costs both by its attention to lifestyle and by bringing lower‑cost treatments into the mainstream that don't depend on expensive technology. So I really see this as a big area of development. 

    More information on Dr. Weil

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  3. David Kelley Founder and Chairman of IDEO & Founder of Stanford


    Of course, the biggest thing is about preventative stuff. You don't have to be a genius to realize that eating -- we do a lot of projects with eating better, and cooking in the workplace is something we're working on -- and just getting people to understand the equation of the good fuel you put in your body results in all these good things. So there's lots of stuff in preventative.

    The other thing that's interesting is I think around the notion that we have a role in our healthcare. I think it's driving some doctors crazy that people can learn so much on the Internet before they come in. It used to be they didn't understand the words; now they have that stuff. And so what's the role that you play in your own healthcare, right? And so if you trust that people actually are -- and I think it's a good bet that they care about their own health -- where there's lots of things you do at home -- the monitoring. You being in the equation along with the medical professional seems to be the most promising thing I've seen.

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