“These days, our culture encourages patients to find a doctor who understands their needs best, and to seek out treatment that best suits them, health experts say.
“What we noticed in the last 10 or 15 years, is the patients are now better at advocating for themselves. They are more critical of their options. They have the resources to make better-educated choices and, in turn, they know to make their preferences known when they seek medical help,” said Dr. Alan Christensen of the University of Iowa, who studies patient-provider interactions and health services.
Now, not only are physicians learning to be better listeners, they are also learning to translate what they hear into more personalized care for their patients,” Christensen said. This is a shift from the old relationship, in which doctors took paternalistic roles and patients merely followed their directions. The shift toward more equal ground in the relationship is bringing better medical care, studies have shown.” (See the full article in the Health section, www.nbcnews.com 02/27/11)
Technology is changing the information advantage between doctor and patient. Used to be that doctors were the only ones educated in the science of medicine. But with the ability to become half-doctor/half-supermom (assuming you survive the gauntlet of a Google search about your symptoms), you can know a lot more about your issues before you even set foot in the doctor’s office. In fact, doctors are slowly realizing that they are not only going to fill the role of diagnostician and bestower of prescription therapy, but also the responsibility of translator and teacher.
Serving as a veritable tour guide of the human body and its potential malfunctions, modern medical doctors are transforming their positions in the healthcare team and rising from the ashes of their old paternalistic pedestals like the phoenix in a Harry Potter storyline. (As you can see, my daughters are in the midst of their requisite Harry Potter stage of development!) Doctors have a new opportunity to have a meaningful relationship with their patients. They must learn to really listen to the patient’s whole experience to satisfy what patients are figuring out…the truth! Patients have vital information regarding their bodies and are seeking the humble wisdom of a thoughtful clinician who listens, processes and presents her/his ideas so that both can implement the best strategy satisfying the needs of the doctor-patient relationship. The science and art of medicine will continue to heal its modern wounds as it finds itself following the advice of that old African proverb reminding all of us that ‘it takes a village’ to heal a patient.