Millions of people suffer from undiagnosed or untreated chronic conditions. The most difficult to diagnose tend to be autoimmune, inflammatory, and autonomic disorders like POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) in which multiple body systems that are supposed to work automatically don’t work as they should and create a plethora of potentially disabling symptoms.
Such disorders tend to defy conventional medical practice because:
- Primary care physicians (PCPs) aren’t usually trained to recognize them.
- They’re not acute care episodes with predefined and fast treatment protocols.
- They defy traditional medical “silos” that focus on single body parts or systems.
For patients with disorders that overlap traditional disease categories, three promising new avenues may be worth investigating:
- Functional Medicine
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undiagnosed Diseases Network
- CrowdMed (web-based crowd-sourcing network to accelerate diagnoses)
Each offers a potential way of accelerating the diagnostic process.
1. Functional Medicine
Conventional medical care is at a tipping point: insurance reimbursements are shifting toward outcomes rather than activity, so the medical establishment will have to seek ways of ensuring that medical visits have a positive impact on patient health. It’s hard to do that if you don’t know what’s wrong and why.
Functional medicine is an approach to patient care that looks beyond symptoms to define and treat the causes of debilitating chronic illnesses. It’s focused less on individual symptoms and body parts than on learning which of the patient’s biological processes aren’t working, and why. As a result, it’s particularly well suited to stubborn, complex medical conditions.
Unlike traditional medicine, which is focused on applying prescribed treatments to relieve immediate symptoms, functional medicine practitioners consider each patient’s unique genetic / chemical make-up and critical environmental and lifestyle factors (including exposure to toxins). Then they tailor solutions to the individual. In other words, the diagnostic process starts with the person and not with predetermined solutions.
The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) is the organization focused on educating healthcare workers, developing new research models for assessing whole body systems, and incorporating Functional Medicine into physician training and continuing medical education (CME).
A major milestone bound to accelerate this transition is the launch on September 23, 2014, of a multi-million-dollar Functional Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, a prestigious healthcare system. This holistic initiative is intended to help transform conventional medical care for debilitating autoimmune disorders, autonomic nervous system problems, and other chronic conditions that have so far defied diagnosis.
Deborah J. Cornwall, Author
To read more, follow this link to the original Huffington Post article.