Dr. Bande Virgil, MD
At no other time has the unity of the physician-patient relationship been so precarious. There are so many wonderful things about the advances in our world that have positively impacted medicine, globalization, and technology, bringing information to our finger tips. However, one sacred relationship has suffered in this country in particular, tremendously as a byproduct of the information era.
Physicians and their patients have grown apart – no longer a team in partnership to improve the health of families and communities. Instead, we are polarized on sides of issues such as the wait times in health facilities, the cost of pharmaceuticals, prior authorizations, and immunization controversy. Never before has there been such a level of distrust and contention in this long-standing relationship.
The great thing about our information era is that our patients are now more aware of symptoms. Perhaps, they can work more effectively with us to monitor changes with software on our smart devices. Yet, the relationship is still very vital. The information era has not changed that. I submit humbly that collectively physicians still seek first to do no harm. Many of us, like our colleagues in other service fields – religious leaders, social workers, teachers – are called to what we do. In other words, we do it because we care. If we all, as a nation of individuals, accept that at the core of this vital relationship, the majority of doctors care; then we can work together to address these other challenges to the physician-patient relationship brought on by the information era.
As part of step one in ending the medical stand off, we acknowledged that most physicians are caring and committed to their patients. Now we must address our health care system challenges together. It is true, there are exorbitant inefficiencies in our health care systems: our patients wait too long to see us causing them to be more anxious and we lose productivity time at work, this is not acceptable. The medications we prescribe are costly, sometimes prohibitively resulting in noncompliance or incomplete treatment. Families choosing between medication and food – this too is not acceptable. The continuing vaccine controversy is just one example of how the communication has broken down.
Parents, in this case, are truly unclear about the safety of vaccines. Rather than risking the health of their most precious gift, they are opting out, delaying, protesting, or just plain confused.
This information era, has made us informed, aware but has not made us healthier. In fact, it has lead to a level of dysfunction in a sacred partnership of doctors and patients. Physicians do not want to be idealized and worshiped, that is not our aim. Patients don’t want to be dismissed and ignored, that is not their desire either. There is a middle ground. In this era, as our healthcare system is transformed into something none of us are truly clear on, we must navigate it together. Physicians Working Together is about empowering doctors, but it’s also about building relationships with our patients. It is about us all strengthening the most important relationship which drives whatever health care system the government chooses, the physician and the patient.