Medicine has moved beyond what Hippocrates could have ever predicted

I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.
-Hippocratic Oath

While Hippocrates recognized early on that medicine was complicated enough to necessitate specialists, medicine has advanced far beyond what he could have ever predicted.  I practice medicine in a world of specialists who have received training so that they might specialize in tumors of only one lobe of the brain.

For a time, it seemed health care consumers believed doctors with the most specialized training were inherently better doctors than those trained to care for the whole person.

While these specialists are needed and valued, we must remember that in medicine our goal is to care for the whole person. That is done best in primary care, and I believe a new generation of health care consumers is restoring our recognition of that value.

Technology has helped create this new generation of consumers.  They are more informed about their health, health care costs, and the potential savings good preventive care offers, not to mention the potential for increased quality of life. And as a result, they are more interested in collaborating with a primary care physician to negotiate the health care system and help keep them healthy.

The new generation of health care consumers – the patients of the future – want to have a conversation about their options and understand what is best for them. And primary care providers, privy to the multiple aspects of a patient’s life that affect his care, are uniquely equipped to do that.

I tell my patients, “You know your body best. I’m here to use my medical knowledge with your expertise about you to figure out what’s going on and how to keep you healthy.”

Some may consider us gatekeepers to the system, but this is a past vision of primary care.  The primary care provider of the future, and the way I see myself, is a guide and a medical home to help patients negotiate their bodies, their environment, and the health care system that can easily cause more harm than good and make a patient feel lost instead of found.

Karly Pippitt is a family physician and clinical instructor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah. She blogs at Primary Care Progress.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dayna.gallagher.9 Dayna Gallagher

    These are laudable statements…

    “The new generation of health care consumers – the patients of the
    future – want to have a conversation about their options and understand
    what is best for them. ”

    “I tell my patients, “You know your body best. I’m
    here to use my medical knowledge with your expertise about you to figure
    out what’s going on and how to keep you healthy.”

    How will Obamacare affect the relationships & ability to deliver the best care to our patients

    • Kate

      You have a very good point to be concerned about Obamacare. I work in Healthcare, so I have seen and felt the effects directly. Out of that, this is what I say: patients have more personal control over our health than what we think. In a time like this, when we cannot control Obamacare, that statement in empowering. I recommend looking into organic foods, reading up on nutrition, understanding yoga, and investigating ways to cultivate more balance in our crazy American lives. I know many of this ideas get blown off because they are not seen as “real medicine,” but they are because they allow the body to heal naturally on its own (boosting the immune system), so that the need for a doctor to prescribe medicine goes significantly down. I encourage you to realize you already have control of your health, despite these political conditions, and to put in the effort to educate yourself more of these preventive medicine techniques if you have not already done so. Have a wonderful day.

  • http://www.thehappymd.com/ Dike Drummond MD

    There has to be someone who cares for the whole patient. Specialist only care for and are only qualified to care for a piece of your physiology. This person will take responsibility for your eyes, that one your heart and typically only as long as they are only responsible for a high dollar procedure. Once the CABG or Cataract are over … it’s back to your GP.

    Primary care doctors see the holistic, global perspective and look after the whole patient and their family at the same time. This is a hugely valuable role … one all primary care doctors play … and one traditionally neglected in all payment systems.

    Thank lack of an equitable exchange of value is a significant source of stress to many doctors and another driver of the popularity of concierge practice.

    Dike

    Dike Drummond MD
    http://www.thehappymd.com

  • katerinahurd

    As medical historians have stated, Hippocrates of Cos did not perform surgeries or delivery of babies because, according to the Hippocratian tradition of medicine, blood was considered an irreplacable humor. Furthermore, Hippocrates was taking into consideration the interactions of the patient with the environment, his diet, sleeping habits and his medical history. All these factors contributed to good health and might lead to longevity. Hippocrates focused on the patient as a whole. The reason being is that he practiced the art of medicine in order to reach a prognosis, not a diagnosis. A prognosis accomodates the quality of life that the patient wishes to enjoy in his life. It is sad that a family physician is considered the center for referals to specialists. Do you think that this is how family physicians are percieved?

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