Burn out! The very mention of the word conjures up a mid-life crisis with broken relationships, declining work performance, and substance abuse. Not to mention the pot belly that accompanies those of us in that blessed 5th decade of life. Doctors and other health care providers are not immune from this most dreaded disease; in fact, we may be more susceptible because we either deny its existence or simply don’t have the time to address the cause. Continue reading
If patients don’t think you as a doctor are open to discussion about complementary medicine, guess what?
They won’t talk! This web site is to prove that the Federal Government is interested in “bridging the gap” between traditional medicine and the complementary approach. I would advise you to visit with your doctor about complementary medicines and treatment for allergies & asthma.
I’ll won’t include every important fact, but some of my own comments might be helpful.
- For every American who quit smoking in 2011, another became obese. Wow, travel to Italy (Europe) and this becomes quit clear. Europeans smoke; Americans eat. In some ways we cancel our vices out….can you imagine what would happen if we quit overeating & smoking!
- Nearly half of health organizations do nothing to protect data on mobile devices. This is changing, but is still a stark reality.
- 28% of physicians are considering forming or joining an ACO. Tulsa will have our own ACO within the near future. Stay tuned!!
- Only 9% of patients say online information influences their physician choice. What’s your opinion? Do you like online information about your health? Tell me again why I’m doing this! lol (still an abbreviation)
- 63% of doctors say they have changed an initial diagnosis based on new information found online. Yes, but reassurance is crucial to treating patients.
- 91% of Americans don’t know how much sodium healthy people are supposed to consume. Do you know?
- A third of U.S. physicians have received Facebook friend requests from patients; 75% of them declined.
- Florida leads the nation in health care fraud activity. Didn’t know there was such a distinction!
- Anxiety and depression medications are used by 27 million Americans. That’s almost 10% of Americans
- In 1991, no state had an obesity rate higher than 15%. In 2010, every state did. Maybe we should take up smoking?
- More adults visit doctors each year for adverse drug events than for pneumonia or strep throat. The point is–side effects from medication accounts for a HUGE medical bill!
- 3 in 4 Americans do not take their medications as directed by a physician.
- Office-based physicians supported 4 million jobs in 2009.
- 1 in 4 working-age adults in the U.S. skips doctor visits, tests and medication.
- On average, elderly, chronically ill patients see 14 physicians.
- Maine and New Hampshire ban the sale of physicians’ prescription data to drug companies.
Medical Jeopardy anyone?
This is a great story for all to read. We (myself included) tend to become very negative about healthcare, especially with the elections heating up. Grab your favorite beverage and enjoy reading how taking care of patients with empathy & concern will never go away regardless of healthcare legislation!
The Patient Will See You Now
Citation: Krueger J. The patient will see you now. J Participat Med. 2011 Dec 28; 3:e53.
Published: December 28, 2011.
Competing Interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.
In 1992, I graduated from college with a degree in business and enrolled in the National Marrow Donor Program, never really expecting to match. But, a few months later, a phone call came from the Red Cross; I had “matched.” Would I come in for screening?
I was informed that the identity of the person to whom I might be donating could not be divulged. I envisioned a patient and family as they waited, hoping for their opportunity. I imagined their prayers and their anxiety. “What if it were me or my family?” I wondered. “Would someone care for us?”
After weeks of tests and exams, another call came; we had matched! Then, several days before the transplant, it was cancelled because the patient was too ill. That night, I penned a letter to the patient, saying, “I hope you pull through. I want to be of help. If you can, just get stronger, I’m still willing to do it.” I gave the letter to the Red Cross coordinator, who promised to pass it on anonymously if the patient’s family agreed.
Several weeks later the patient had recovered and was ready for a transplant. Blood and bone marrow were taken through two punctures in my pelvis. Meanwhile, my original letter had touched off an avalanche of letters, pictures, and stories from the patient and his family. Through them, I was afforded the extraordinary opportunity to become a part of Larry’s story.
I learned Larry’s story — about his children, his wonderful wife, his amazing family, and his gracious and loving friends — and, through this, became connected to their lives. Larry was able to return home, visited his favorite restaurant again, took family trips, was a father to his kids and spent time with his wife – all the things leukemia had robbed him of during the previous 16 months. “I” was along every step of the way, as my bone marrow took hold.
By now, inspired by Larry’s story and our relationship, I had begun studying for medical school. And as I dreamed of what kind of physician I wanted to be, there was no doubt; it was a doctor who would care for patients like Larry.
One day, another call came. Larry was very sick. His body was rejecting my bone marrow. I penned another letter to him and his family, and prayed. But alas, Larry died several days later, surrounded by family and friends. I grieved as if it were the death of a family member or close friend. I still felt strongly connected to Larry and his family.
I received a letter from Larry’s wife, telling me how much Larry had enjoyed his last months of life. “He really lived and enjoyed living,” she said. She said thanks and that she hoped I didn’t consider my contribution to Larry’s care to be in vain. She said one of the things that Larry looked forward to the most was reading my letters, and it made him feel proud to know he had inspired me to study medicine.
I went on to become a physician, naively thinking that most of my experiences in medicine would be as inspirational as those I had with Larry and his family. But “health care,” as I would come to experience it as a medical student and physician, was very different than I had imagined it. When I heard patients complain about their medical care, it was hardly ever about the lack of technical care or competence. Instead, it followed a common theme: “He just didn’t seem like he cared.”
During medical school education, the patient’s story was relegated to the category of “poetry” or “essay.” Healthcare valued technical competence more than these stories. As I listened and learned, becoming increasingly proficient in medicine, I kept looking for what had inspired me to become a physician in the first place. And I was having trouble finding it!
As I entered practice, the more the pressures of a busy medical office competed for my ability to participate in the patient’s story, the less effective I found myself as a healer and the less joy I found in medicine. Practicing rural family medicine helped me discover that patients often come to physicians with much more than just medical problems. They brought legal, marital, spiritual, financial, educational issues, and more. I discovered that I could solve as many health problems with a car ride, phone call, letter, or chain-saw as I could with penicillin.
My eyes were opened to the story of the patient, and what care they expect and need at this moment in their story. My fascination grew with the idea that the patient’s life is a story in which health care only intermittently plays a role. Care meant something more.
Though I became skilled at negotiating the clinical protocol, patients often came to the office seemingly indifferent to my agenda. I pushed to accomplish the checklist, worried the patient might suffer through an oversight on my part. Whether it was just a need to visit or ask a question about life, my agenda usually didn’t allow enough time to fully accommodate the patient’s story.
Though medicine is necessarily standards driven, we often thrust these on patients without their full understanding or engagement. And this approach tends to set up a dependent relationship. If it occurs without kindness, caring, and respect, patients may even perceive it as a form of harm, and either avoid care or disengage completely. And when it is unwelcome, it creates antagonism, yet another form of harm.
But, with my hand on the doorknob, the simple “Oh by the way…” offered up by the patient at the conclusion of an office visit invites me to delay my agenda and just listen. I am offered a chance to become a part of the patient’s story, where the patient is at the center and I am being asked to care. It is in the “oh by the way” moment when I discover that a “normal appearing” woman is abused by a model citizen husband; a spouse’s alcoholism is driving a family apart; a teenager has been taking her mother’s pain medications; and I learn how depressed and close to suicide the seemingly carefree successful father of three is as his business descends into bankruptcy and his marriage into divorce.
Pressure that physicians feel to maintain a good business model threatens to overlook a critical part of our “product.” In health care, the patient’s story and the relationship have ironically become the obstacle, rather than the objective. The consultative visit, the one place where the patient can discuss what is important to them with a trusted healer and confidant, is relegated to an agenda and a timeline by the need to see enough patients in a limited time to pay the bills.
Pauses such as the hand on the doorknob can be transitional points to discovery and relationship. In these pauses, I often felt the connection with the patient that is missing from the hamster wheel of a busy clinic or ward. In the pause, the agenda becomes the domain of the patient. In the pause, I often find myself uniquely free to listen and participate in the patient’s story. And in the pause, I’m able to suspend my assumptions and just listen.
Last year, I underwent my own extended “pause” as I left my clinical practice to attend a fellowship at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in Boston.
During the year, as I listened to patients talk, I discovered that many considered our health care system to be completely out of step with their lives. Patients spoke of their sense that health care just no longer cared. They reminded me that caring is not just about being nice to others. It is about an awareness and consideration of the true needs of others cultivated by a relationship between patients and those who provide care.
An article by Emeril Szilagy, “In Defense of the Art of Medicine,” captures the nature of this relationship between healer and patient, and between health and care. “A man stricken with disease today is assaulted by the same fears and finds himself searching for the same helping hand as his ancestors did five or ten thousand years ago. He has been told about the clever tools of modern medicine, and somewhat vaguely, he expects that by-and-by he will profit from them, but in his hour of trial, his desperate want is for someone who is personally committed to him, who has taken up his cause and who is willing to go to trouble for him.”
Health and care transcends position and location. I also discovered that most care delivery is actually self-care. As much as I might think I affect health outcomes, most are influenced by factors other than “me,” and are outside the four walls of medical delivery. Socioeconomics, biology, geography, education, literacy, temperament, environment, and networks all play a role in outcomes.
Through listening to patients, I began to realize that health care’s focus on controlling the access to and location of the diagnosis and treatment of disease, without empowering connections and relationships, displaced any opportunity for breakthrough improvements in health and care.
Health care providers must embrace the goals of improved safety, efficiency, effectiveness, and timeliness, but must also realize that health care does not own health and care. If it is owned by anyone, it is owned by patients. We need to include patients as we listen, learn, and redesign our current systems of care with them and for them. Care must become a community metric where all who work in service participate and understand the impact and importance of their role in the health of others.
Though metrics are important, a thermometer cannot measure despair, a Hemoglobin A1C is not an experience, and a blood pressure is not a heart-to-heart chat. If the connections and relational aspects of medicine are minimized or eliminated, health care and medicine become commoditized, and care becomes relegated to the status of a drive-though oil change which, even if technically competent, is soulless. If treatments and tests are ingredients, relationships and stories are the meal. Making the mistake of preserving one at the expense of the other lessens the potential of both. This is the essence of high-touch medicine, and it is why the pervasive need for the injured and hurting to seek healing from caregivers has endured across the millennia.
It is critical to get this right if we are ever going to restore the idea of “health” to health care. “Patient-centered” health care must not just “put” the patient at the center — a controlling and somewhat paternalistic concept. Patient-centered care  must mean that the patient elects to determine his or her location within health and care, and implies that we need to work with patients to develop a system for their needs. This might mean that we aren’t the biggest part of their story in some cases, and it behooves us to recognize when health care adds value and when it’s just in the way. Through a better understanding of the patient’s story, we can begin to see how we can truly help patients.
Increasingly, patients are self-directed. They are blogging, writing on “walls,” and forming self-help communities. But for each of these, there are others whose stories elude us, and they may struggle to find outlets to express themselves. These are the stories the health care system has never fully discovered. For them, systems supporting health and care must reach out to better understand their story and determine how we can best care. To accomplish this, systems of care must incorporate ways for all who provide care a way to truly “see” the patient; in so doing, patients can, in turn, “see” us.
It took a year away from patients for me to finally realize that the major impact of my relationship with Larry was not the “medicine” I was able to provide. Though important, it was ultimately not successful. The real value occurred in the relationship that afforded, if only for a while, an opportunity to care for another person and their family. As such, it allowed me to really “see” Larry and for him to “see” me. This is a mutually restorative process for healer, patient, and family.
Health and care will only become patient-centered when patients are allowed to design the “center” they want and need. A “center” based on a story. This one’s for you, Larry. Thanks for teaching me what it means to care and for allowing me to participate in your story.
The patient will see you now. Are you ready?
I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions–if I don’t do something everyday, how is a resolution going to change my priority? Behold…I bring you good tidings of great joy…taking regular PREVENTATIVE medication works the same way!
So what’s the issue at hand? Patients with asthma often want to stop preventive medication for the cough & wheeze. I often hear…I don’t need it, only to suffer from an asthma attack with their next cold. What are some useful strategies to improve asthma care in this regard?
From the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2011 National Conference and Exhibition: Abstract 14793. Presented October 14, 2011:
- Pediatricians strongly support the recommendation that emergency department (ED) physicians start asthma controller medications during an acute visit to the ED, according to research presented here at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2011 National Conference and Exhibition.
- Why in the emergency room? It’s the best time to have that one-on-one discussion with asthma patients. You have their attention.
National asthma guidelines recommend that ED physicians consider initiating long-term controller medications when children present with an acute asthma attack. We all (I mean physicians) follow the guidelines, right? Think again!
- Many ED doctors are reluctant to do so, lead author Esther Maria Sampayo, MD, MPH, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, said in an oral abstract session.
- “One AAP study noted that less than 20% of ED doctors actually do this,” Dr. Sampayo told Medscape Medical News. “When you ask them why, they say it’s not their role to be the pediatrician and they shouldn’t be providing long-term management.”
If you don’t know the answer….then let’s find out. The researchers did a cross-sectional mail survey of a randomly selected national sample of pediatricians involved in providing primary care from the AAP.
- Of the 527 pediatricians who responded to the survey, 83% reported that they feel it is appropriate for the ED physician to initiate controller medications.
- Just 23% of pediatricians reported that their patients “almost always” follow-up within 1 month after an ED visit. Makes you wonder what else gets “missed!”
- Half (51%) of those surveyed believe that having ED physicians prescribe controller meds in the ED will encourage patients to follow-up.
- The survey also asked the pediatricians what they consider to be the benefits of having ED physicians initiate asthma controller medications. Most (85%) feel that it is a “teachable moment” and represents an important opportunity to capture patients who are poorly controlled. Strike it while the iron is hot!
Noah Kondamudi, MD, an asthma specialist in the Pediatric Emergency Department of the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark, said that in his experience, more and more ED doctors are prescribing asthma controller medications when children present with acute asthma.
Here in Oklahoma, no data is available on prescribing habits of emergency room physicians for asthma controller meds or the opinion of local pediatricians. Do I hear a study that needs to be done?
“In general, emergency room doctors would not want to add to or change the primary care doctor’s chronic disease plan. However, more and more data are showing that many asthmatic children are not on controller medication, so initiating controller therapy should make a big difference,” he said.
My thanks to Fran Lowry who is a freelance writer for Medscape. She has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.