Paging Dr. Mom!


A mother’s intuition is powerful, particularly when it comes to doctoring kids. Moms know the difference between a look that means, “I’m tired,” and one that means, “Get out of the way! I’m going to throw up!” Moms make judgments about what medicine to give, when to keep kids home from school, and when it’s time to make a trip to the doctor’s office.

The degree of influence American mothers and parents have over the health care of their families has changed dramatically over time. Early in our country’s founding, parents and extended families played the role of physician because doctors were simply hard to reach. The 20th century brought about a health care consumer model that still largely exists today, where patients essentially select from a menu of treatment services. Many experts say that this approach has resulted in a complicated system by which Americans are now “producers” of diseases that providers treat — a scenario that has become overwhelming in terms of cost and need. Private and public entities alike are looking for solutions.

One such solution is developing patient-provider partnerships, which reward a patient’s increased total wellness and decreased “use of the system.” Advocates of these partnerships ask that people shift their thinking and behaviors to self-reliance, thereby using the “system” less.

This proposition offers a unique juxtaposition of a very traditional medical model and a very modern data model. We have thousands upon thousands of wellness-driven websites, condition-specific sites, social networking communities, and mobile applications designed to do anything from tracking the number of steps we take to finding the nearest organic food market. If we adopt the “heal thyself” model of the American pioneers, we’ll have many modern bytes of support along the way.

Health care providers must do all they can to forge partnerships with “Dr. Mom.” This will require a shift in the current methods of treatment, an effort to collect additional resources, and an investment in the digital communications that support collaboration. A mother’s intuition is powerful, but a mom will truly embrace tools that deliver facts and instruction within this new era of health care.