As a senior in questionable health I frequently see doctors. One would think that in the medical profession there are an abundance of opportunities for doctors to dispense compassion along with medical tests, treatments, and medications in order to help make the medicine go down (Mary Poppins). However in my experience I have found private practice physician, which this article is largely about, rather lacking in compassion and good bedside manners. I do have one doctor who comes close to what I consider as compassionate but most keep me waiting beyond tolerance and gets me out of the office as quickly as possible after ever so briefly seeing me.
Modern medicine started out quite differently during the earlier part of the last century and beyond. There was a lot of palpating and pounding around the body and carefully listening to the stethoscope as part of the diagnostic process. Doctors would spend time talking with patients to get a better idea of how they felt and patiently listened for hints that might lead to a better diagnosis as the patient spoke their mind. Medicine used to be about the patient.
Today’s doctors sometimes spend less than a minute listening impatiently to what patients have to say then write orders for a battery of tests or some prescriptions and tell you to come back in a few weeks. Visits typically takes 1 to 8 minutes. Most tests come back with a medical report and diagnosis. The doctor simply looks at the diagnosis then prescribes a bunch of medications to address the symptoms. It’s all very cut and dry, quite brief, and extremely expensive. $100-200 for a 5 minute consultation is at least $1200/hour. No wonder many doctors keep patients patiently waiting in waiting room queues so long so they can go immediately to the next patient without wasting time in order to see as many patients as possible to make more money. The medical profession today lacks the interpersonal relationships that patients need to help the medicine go down. It’s now all about making money.
Patients are simply body parts to be treated independently. It is rare to find a doctor who really takes a holistic approach to medicine. Aren’t all the organs of the body intimately interrelated to one other as an organism, the body? I also find doctors too often treating symptoms because they don’t spend enough time diagnosing root cause, the disease or problem that is affecting the entire body. Not all doctors are like this but I have experienced far too many who are. Doctors need to live up to the spirit of the Hippocratic oath, not just to its individual word as they now treat individual organs instead of the holistic body. The goal should be to care for the needs of patients instead of the need to make more money.
I feel that the lack of adequate attention to the feelings of the patient is quite prevalent and is why I feel that many of these doctors will soon be replaced by diagnostic computers and robots. I probably won’t notice the difference for some. Since so many doctors no longer practice much of the human touch, robots and computers might as well replace them. It is simply a matter of time before computers become much smarter than humans in medical diagnosis and treatment recommendations. The capability is already here.
As for what I want from a doctor, I want a doctor who is interested in me as a person. I want a doctor who knows what troubles me and what brings the joy into my life, my state of mind. I want a doctor who greets me and asks me how things are going in my life. I want a doctor to touch where I feel discomfort or pain. I want a doctor who I can feel comfortable hugging if given bad news. I want a doctor who acts as if my mind is connected to the rest of me. If I could get a doctor who just does 20-30% of all the things I want and need I would be blissfully happy with that doctor and perhaps the doctor could better diagnose what ails me instead of simply treat my symptoms based upon test results. After all I am a whole person capable of expressing how I feel, not simply some body parts. What I really need from a doctor is just a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down in a most delightful way.