The Miracle of Modern Medical Technology
Who’s Your Doctor?
As an amateur endurance athlete, I get my share of injuries. But I rarely run to my doctor unless something has been bothering me for a long time: several months or more. After Ironman Augusta last year, I thought I broke something in my right foot. You should have seen me hobbling across the finish line. I was in bad shape. I didn’t run for almost 6 months after that. I don’t really have a point with that story, because what I really want to talk about is the importance of patient doctor relationships.
I did see my doctor about my foot. I’m one of the lucky ones. My GP is a great guy. He spends time talking to me when I visit him. He looks me in the eye and asks the hard questions. On the other hand, I’ve been to specialists who are very different. I’ve had conversations with the backs of doctors’ heads. They mumble questions at me while they type into their computers. That’s just so annoying. And I’ve heard from friends that that’s quite typical.
No Expensive Acronyms
I got lucky with my foot. I saw a podiatrist who has great patient skills. We didn’t waste time or money with X-rays, PET scans, MRI’s and other expensive acronyms. We talked. He examined and we both agreed on what to do. Total cost: $25 copay and $5 worth of cushions for my shoes. That was over a month ago and I have no complaints. I’ve been running regularly since. Of course, I could get a bit more fancy with a custom orthotic inserts for the shoes. Maybe later. By the way. The podiatrists name is Edwin Martin. That’s right: Doc Martin. He’s in Wilmington, NC and if you need a podiatrist, look him up.
The Value of Listening
I’ve been reading more and more about how our medical system is so overpriced. I’ve also been reading about how so few doctors actually know their patients. And, how many patients actually get to see a doctor? Most visits nowadays seem to be with PA’s or nurses. I got scoped up the exit a few months ago (colonoscopy). The place seemed like a factory with timetables, schedules and deadlines. People were friendly, but I didn’t get the sense that anyone really cared about who I was. Maybe I’m being insecure about this. Maybe I just want to be loved and appreciated for who I am and not treated like a number. Or maybe I just want to know who’s poking me in the a$$. It’s all so cold (literally and figuratively) and systematic. I guess that’s the way it has to be for some medical services.
On the other hand, Malcom Gladwell wrote about the incidences of malpractice law suits. After looking at some data (I don’t remember how much or what quality) he concluded that patients were NOT likely to sue a doctor if the doctor had treated the patient with dignity and respect. In other words, the patients who didn’t bring suit against their doctors felt like they had been heard. It didn’t matter the severity of the problem that might have brought on the law suit.
If a medical practice has to be like an assembly line, so be it. But a general practitioner should know his patients and they should know their doctor in return. They don’t have to train and race together as I do with mine. But they should have a relationship. And the better the relationship, the healthier everyone will be.
Now, let’s hold hands and sing cumbya. No not really. But I do believe that a good balance of people skills with theory is much better than sending everyone off for more tests just because of law suit fears.