Monthly Letters to Pulmonary Patients by Thomas L. Petty

Thomas L. Petty, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, 
University of Colorado

Chairman, National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP)


National Lung Health Education Program
A collaborative project with



HealthOne Center
1850 High Street
Denver, CO 80218
Phone: 303 839 6755
Fax: 303 832 8137

Docs in a Box

May 2002
Second Wind
Lomita, California

     Dear Friends:

     Today I fear that doctors are really in a box. They are boxed in with excessive paperwork, restrictions by health maintenance organizations, heavy patient loads, and rapidly growing science and technologies. Now, within an average of six to ten minutes per patient encounter by primary care practitioners, and even specialists trying to cram more patients onto a busy schedule, the role of the physician is being badly limited. Add to this dilemma, the fact that doctors today are not taught to think “outside the box.” They often respond in knee-jerk fashion to symptoms, signs, laboratory tests and x-ray images. 

     Dynamic thinking gets lost in the process. What is the solution? There is no substitute for unhurried patient-physician interaction in the pursuit of diagnosis or more effective treatment strategies. One way patients can help their doctors is to be organized in their questions and let their doctors know that they expect answers and solutions to their problems – maybe not on each encounter but certainly after several interactions. No disease can be treated before it is accurately diagnosed and no treatment will be successful without the patient and physician working in partnership. 

     Hopefully we can get docs out of the box and into the arena of more comprehensive patient care. 

     I'll be in touch next month.

  Thomas Petty, MD

Last update:
02 June 2002