He is quick to point out, though, that "there obviously are appropriate uses for modern medicine," such as the time he injured his knee years ago and saw a surgeon, or when a person with meningitis requires emergency-room care.

"Most of us assume we can live the way we want, and a doctor will fix us," he said.

But that's not always the case. Duggan tells the story of a successful female CFO who came to him with "a scary set of debilitating symptoms." She had spent $100,000 on medical testing and had been told her symptoms might be a precursor to multiple sclerosis or lupus.

"I was both intrigued and intimidated [by her case] and read four medical reports" on her before their meeting, he said.

He posed simple lifestyle questions to the woman that exposed such regular, unhealthy habits as grabbing fast-food dinners at 11 p.m., sleeping six hours or less a night, and getting almost no exercise.

"She wanted to fix things without changing her behavior," he said. "But she was smart. She knew what she had to do."

Most people, like that CFO, don't belong in the "disease-care system," he said.

"We need to teach people to drive their bodies properly," Duggan said. "Most people have five minor symptoms that come and go. If you learn to manage them, you won't need a doctor."

Howard Ross, chief learning officer at Cook Ross Inc., a Silver Spring-based consulting and training firm that represents 46 health-care organizations as well as other clients, recommends Duggan's book.

"Bob Duggan hasn't only written a fascinating book, filled with wisdom about what good health really is, he has also created a powerful inquiry into what our society needs to do to address our health care needs for the future," Ross wrote in an email.

Duggan believes it's time to place a priority on managing ballooning health-care costs by examining the issues through a different lens.

"If we put money into wellness, we don't put it into our present health-care system," he said. "Let's keep it for ourselves."