Our medical system needs more positive stories

I’ve been asked to appear on a radio talk show to discuss one of my blog articles.  It seems that the producers of the show were impressed by my article on the beauty of medicine when it works the way it’s supposed to.

“When It Works Right, It’s a Thing of Beauty” was published this summer and is one of my favorite articles.  The practice of medicine is a beautiful thing.  When I first started in medicine over 30 years ago, the practice of medicine was commonly referred to as the “Art of Medicine.”  Today, things are different.

Being interviewed about the above article has highlighted how bad things in my world appear to others.  When the art of practicing medicine and the beauty it creates becomes noteworthy, it highlights just how sullied and damaged my love has become.

In the last 2 years, I have published 33 success stories.  I have been witness to thousands.  Doctors have become the whipping boys of the insurance industry, the government, the lawyers, and many other special interest groups who have flesh in the game.  Yes, it’s a game called “Can you break the doctor-patient relationship?”

It’s a high stakes game.  There are lots of bucks at stake and the art of medicine appears to have lost.  Why play such a destructive game?  Why spray paint graffiti over a Mona Lisa?  The answer is a simple one, money, and the main players want more of it.  To get it, doctors and the medicine they practice had to be sacrificed on the public alter.

Let’s look at the players.  The insurers want to maximize profits and control both doctors’ and their patients’ access to medical care.  The government wants to cut expenses and control a doctor’s behavior in order to cover the government’s rising debt and fiscal irresponsibility.  The lawyers want to generate malpractice suits, protocols, and contracts.  Third party pharmacy managers want to maximize their profits by pushing generic medications.

Doctors just want to care for their patients.  As a matter of fact, the doctor-patient relationship requires the doctor to put his/her patient’s needs above everything else.  As long as the doctor-patient relationship exists, the insurer, government, lawyers and other involved parties would lose the game.

Unfortunately, all parties involved in the game of “Can you break the doctor-patient relationship?” are experts at manipulating the media with the exception of the lowly doc who goes to work every day delivering the best care he/she can.

Is it any surprise that the only thing you hear about on TV or read in the paper is about our broken healthcare system?  It shouldn’t be.  Let me share a secret with you.  The medical system in the US is not as broken as you think.  Every day, the system saves lives.  Every day, brilliant diagnoses are made by hard working physicians and the vast array of paramedical staff running hospitals, outpatient diagnostic centers, and clinics across the country.  Every day the insured and the uninsured receive care.  Yes, the system functions 24/7.

When it works right, it is truly a beautiful thing and it works right on a daily basis across the US.  You just don’t hear about it.  The beauty of modern medicine is not noteworthy and will never be highlighted by the news media.  The art of medicine is lost to most, hidden in a closet by the press and powers that be.  It’s about time that it is removed from that closet placed in the daylight for others to enjoy.  It’s about time that patients who have been well served by the medical complex let their voices be heard.

If you or your family has been witness to the good in our medical system, have been cared for by doctors and nurses in offices or hospitals, share this article with your social circle, post it to your Facebook or Twitter account.  If your life has been saved by a physician, share your story with others.  Yes, there are medical disasters and mistakes, and we certainly hear about them; but there are many more success stories that no one hears about.

When it works right, it’s a thing of beauty.  Share the beauty with others; get it out of the closet.  It’s about time someone speaks up.

Stewart Segal is a family physician who blogs at Livewellthy.org.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/chand.nair Chand Nair

    This is so true…I have often thought why we continue to focus on the bad…then again, I guess, it’s the nature of media to focus on the negative and to yawn @ the positive….but you are right…we need to inject positivity…or else the trend will continue downwards

  • Angelina Dimitrova

    Incredibly beautiful way of expressing Yourself.

    After nearly 8 months of running from hospital to hospital in two different countries, I realized how much everything has changed – or rather how different it is from the beautiful tales my parents told me not too long ago, which speak about the unshakable human kindness. Just like in those stories, there were good and bad guys and unfortunately, it seemed that the ‘bad gang’ had an advantage in number. I’m not sure I can quite define what I mean by ‘bad’ doctors, but I guess that if I had to (referring to my experience) I’d say that they are those people, who more or less ‘bully’ their power and misuse their knowledge for the sake of money. However, I try to look at this experience with an open mind and if we put the fact that I enjoyed it despite all the pain, frustration and despite still having no diagnose aside, I can proudly, with a sigh of relief say that I was wrong. There were more ‘good’ doctors. The proper type that try to keep up with your improvement, show you that they care and understand what your going through and speak to you as a person with just as high intelligence as theirs and not only some ‘potato they’re going to cut for dinner’ (pardon my expression) – the doctors the way they are supposed to be; kind, caring, knowledgeable, patient and hardworking.

    With tears in my eyes, I thank and prey for them every single night, because although my diagnose is still not clear, they do not give up on me and helped me and my family get through these extremely painful, difficult and confusing months. I still remember the kindness in their voices and love in their looks, every time they spoke with a patient; any patient. They thought of us as their family and they became our family.

  • Docbart

    There is a great deal that is true here. Unfortunately, some of our colleagues undermine our status by their unprofessional actions and make it so much easier to for others to attack us.

    Some of us don’t keep up to date and just don’t practice high quality medicine consistently. Some of us have little empathy and never establish good relationships with our patients. Some of us are greedy and rape the system with various worthless tests and procedures that serve as cash cows. Some of us are gullible when attractive pharmaceutical reps bring us nice lunches and stroke our egos to get us to prescribe their overpriced “me-too” drugs. We also show weakness when dealing with “insurers” who prey on fear and greed to bully us into signing agreements that hurt our patients and ourselves. We abandon our patients when they are hospitalized because following them in hospital is not good for our lifestyle and not remunerative enough. We delegate care to “physician extenders” because it improves our income, even at the cost of quality care and patient satisfaction. We don’t police ourselves with enough rigor to get rid of our bad apples until forced to do so.

    All of these things make us vulnerable to those who would diminish the medical profession. We do lots of great things, but our shortcomings continue to hurt us.

  • PamelaWibleMD

    Stewart ~ could not agree more! Disintermediation is the key. Remove no-value-added intermediaries and strengthen the patient-physician relationship. I just published a book with 101 of my best patient stories to inspire the next generation of doctors. Medical students tell me they rarely meet happy doctors and feel a sense of despair about their future. Let’s show them how fun and fulfilling medicine is as a career. It starts with doctors taking back the sacred patient relationship and putting patients (not politicians, experts, consultant, and even ourselves) first. Would love to send you my book: Pet Goats & Pap Smears.

    Pamela Wible, MD

  • http://www.facebook.com/nichola.ejaz Nichola Ejaz

    I am so glad that I came across this post and wish you every success and hope that your radio interview goes well.

    I hope to be a doctor in the future for the very reasons that you have described, but harshly aware of the bad press currently circulating about medics and the NHS in todays society. I can only hope to remain true to self and my desire to be a good doctor.

    Thank you

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