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