Hospitals

Marcus Welby versus the 21st Century

Medicine these days is advancing at a rate never experienced before. New technology emerges all the time. It is often hard for doctors and patients alike to keep on top of the latest breakthroughs.  We are all pressed for time as witnessed by the drive-through banks, pharmacies and food take out places. However, medicine should […]

Medicine these days is advancing at a rate never experienced before. New technology emerges all the time. It is often hard for doctors and patients alike to keep on top of the latest breakthroughs.  We are all pressed for time as witnessed by the drive-through banks, pharmacies and food take out places. However, medicine should not be run like a fast food take away. Many patients are pressed for time just as much, if not more, than the doctors they are seeing.  Yet, many also long for the days of Marcus Welby like medicine. They long to have the doctor know all about them and their families, make home calls, return their phones calls, and be generally available to them.  Can Marcus Welby medicine be practiced in the 21st century under all the new regulatory burdens and new technological advances we need to merge into our practices?

The answer should be yes. Patient care should not suffer because of the many obstacles we are facing and the increasing demands being placed on us. As a physician, I offer the best medical advice when I know as much as I can about the patient I am treating. Not all chest pain is a heart attack. Sometimes, it is just a nasty boss or a sick child. If we don’t foster relationships with our patients, we miss out on many important clues we may need to accurately reach a diagnosis and treatment plan. But, this ideal arrangement of medicine needs cooperating from patients and physicians alike.

How can physicians and patients foster medical relationships to their maximal potential?

– Listening is key. We need to listen to each other. I have so many patients come and tell me the other doctor didn’t listen to them. Often, when we open our ears, patients will tell us the diagnosis. Similarly, patients need to listen when we give our advice. They don’t need to follow through with it but at least hear us. I often find that patients have been told a medical opinion but they don’t recall it.

– We need to respect each other’s time. We all know how much patients hate to be kept waiting in the exam room. I try my hardest to stay on schedule. Sometimes though, a patient comes with an unexpected problem or develops an emergency in the office. I try to give my best and complete attention to every patient that comes into the exam room. If you are ever the patient that needs that extra time, I would give it to you as well.  And by all means, speak up. If you feel that you waited unfairly, let us know. I often do not know what time the patients checked in.

– We need to understand the position of the other. I always try to keep in mind that a patient may be worried or even scared. I often see patients at their lowest. They are sometimes rude but I need to remind myself that this may not be their usual behavior. Similarly, patients should understand that we truly have their best interests in mind. If you ask for a specific medication and I say no, it is not because I am power tripping. I am doing it because there is a medical concern that I feel may harm you. Both sides need to try to understand the other’s viewpoint better.

– We need to be a team. The doctor may know more about medicine just because we studied for many more years. But, the final decision maker about healthcare choices is the patient. My role as a physician is to help my patient understand the most about their health and the options that are available. And then, help them to reach the best decision through an educated discussion by both parties.

As physicians, we love to embrace the latest innovations. It is exciting to see all the new treatments being made available and diseases being cured that were considered incurable when we were still in training. But, the most important part of the patient is the person inside  the patient. As far as Marcus Welby style  medicine, I still do home visits. I have families as patients that are 4 generations long. I know what sports my pediatric patients play and who is going to go to college on an athletic scholarship.  My youngest patients come and tell me when they aced a math exam, and get a high-five.  Perhaps,  the time has come to take old-fashioned medicine high-tech.

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