Imagine our future in medicine

What is the impact of the Well Living Lab’s work on those in the medical profession, physicians and health care professionals who care for patients every day? How might it change the practice of medicine? How might the advice that a doctor gives a patient change? Here’s a perspective from Douglas Wood, M.D., medical director, Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation and consultant, Cardiovascular Medicine.

“Today when I see patients, I assess, test and ultimately diagnose their situation. At the end of the diagnosis, we discuss treatment plan options. That might look something like this: Mr. Jones has three issues to address, and they are interrelated. One is heart disease. Another is difficulty sleeping. And a third is high blood pressure. I recommend that Mr. Jones change his diet and add more exercise to improve his heart condition. I offer a pharmaceutical prescription to bring down his blood pressure. We discuss getting a C-PAP machine to help him get a better night’s sleep. Mr. Jones doesn’t want to take more drugs and worries about side effects. He has reservations about the C-PAP machine making him feel claustrophobic. I’m concerned that what I have to offer isn’t something that he’ll act on.

“What if I could offer a different treatment plan, to change the environmental conditions in his home that could be conducive to sleep? And because Mr. Jones becomes able to sleep well by changing the temperature, relative humidity and the lighting in his home, his blood pressure goes down. And that improves his heart condition because his heart is no longer working harder than normal. Then I would continue to work with him on diet and exercise, but he doesn’t need a machine for sleep. He doesn’t need a drug. And this new treatment plan also reduces health care costs.

“That’s what the future could be like for the medical profession. And that’s transformative in every sense of the word for medicine. It’s what excites me about the Well Living Lab.”

Dr. Wood is co-chair of the Well Living Lab Joint Steering Committee and was instrumental in making the Well Living Lab a reality.