Are You Practicing Reactive or Preventive Medicine?

July 17, 2014

by Gilbert Simoni, MD
Advanced Gastroenterology, Inc.

Most would agree that healthcare costs are high. One of the major culprits is reactive medicine. Simply put, many Americans fail to take personal responsibility for their health. They wait until they have a "problem" or react before they seek professional help. Fortunately, over the past several decades, many physicians and health organizations have placed more emphasis on disease prevention.

What is Reactive Medicine?

Reactive medicine is when healthcare is sought only when someone has become ill. The process often involves costly tests and invasive procedures to diagnose and treat conditions that could have been prevented. This approach to health accounts for more than 75 percent of healthcare spending in the United States.

What is Preventive Medicine?

With preventive medicine, committed individuals have a vested interest in their wellbeing and have a say in the decisions regarding their healthcare. Many of those decisions concern lifestyle, such as making informed, intelligent choices about exercise, diet and relaxation. Preventive healthcare also involves making smart choices as a healthcare consumer. For example, the average emergency room (ER) visit costs over $1,000 more than a visit to a primary care physician. Therefore, a person in tune with preventive medicine would avoid the ER except for occasions that are truly emergencies. Emergencies that would require ER visits include shortness of breath, chest pain, unusual bleeding (rectal bleeding or vomiting blood), severe abdominal pain, loss of consciousness, animal bites, car accidents, high fever, poisoning and head injuries.

For conditions that are not emergencies, a visit to your primary care physician or an urgent care center would be more appropriate. Some examples of non-emergency conditions and symptoms include earaches or ear infections, sore throat, common cold, cough, acid reflux symptoms, constipation, diarrhea, mild abdominal pain, sprains, urinary tract infections, headaches and low-grade fevers.

Preventive medicine guides patients away from avoidable procedures, unnecessary ER visits and over treatment. It stresses personal responsibility for staying well and educates patients about their health risks and cost of services.

By taking personal responsibility for your health and by becoming a smart healthcare consumer, you can lower costs, improve your quality of life and set a healthy example for your friends and family.

Preventive healthcare measures include:

1. Annual visits to your primary care physician.

2. Pap smears and mammograms (females) as recommended by your primary care physician.

3. Prostate exams (males).

4. Colonoscopy at age of 50 (earlier if you have inflammatory bowel disease, family history or personal history of colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer or brain cancer).

5. Screening for Barrett's esophagus and esophageal cancer if you have a family history of either condition, have more than occasional heartburn or heartburn, unexplained cough or sore throat, difficulty or pain with swallowing, hoarseness of voice and weight loss.

As part of Advanced Gastroenterology, Inc. ( and member of Choice Health Associates, I strive to educate my patients and public about preventive medicine every chance I get. I am involved with several organizations that promote preventive medicine such as Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America (, Esophageal Cancer Action Network (, Center for Disease Control and Prevention ( and American Gastroenterological Association (