Find a physician, not a general

“Superior doctors prevent the disease.
Mediocre doctors treat the disease before evident.
Inferior doctors treat the full-blown disease.”
-Huang Dee Nai-Chan 2600 BC; 1st Chinese Medical Text.

Not only does my work in integrative medicine have me on the front lines of big pharma-created “syndromes”, like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel (these are real for patients, but are not formal syndromes), but I get to see the worst of our sickcare system. I continue to see patients who are not only suffering from frustrating and often debilitating chronic symptoms, but they have largely been disrespected and pushed away by physicians with whom they put their trust.

See, most patients still believe that physicians still provide what the ethics of medicine requires us to: “consideration, compassion and benevolence for our patients”. They come to the doctor with the expectation that they will get to tell their story and be heard. That they will enter into a discussion with their doctor about the risks and benefits of certain tests, therapies and alternatives. That their physician will help them, as a patient, make their own best decision for themselves and be comfortable making that decision.

Unfortunately the healthcare experience for many is quite the opposite. The doctor gives a patient an order that is expected to be followed. Patients that don’t follow these orders are branded “non-compliant” and often excused from the practice. Is this the way this partnership was meant to be? A dictatorship that takes no account as to the desires or means or belief systems of the patients we are to care for? The natives are getting restless with this approach and they should. I often apologize to my patients for my profession and hope to show them a new way, a team approach where the patient, armed with the evidence and my experience can make the best decision for themselves.

I believe healthcare was meant to be a partnership with patients where providers use their talents and knowledge to help them make the best decision to promote their health often in the face of disease. They don’t give orders, they give advice. They provide patients with a toolbag of ideas and options for bettering their health and well-being. They never give them a guilt trip if they made a different decision than the provider would, or sought a second opinion.

There are many reasons why our current system has become this frustrating, dictatorship experience, but it is no excuse. There are models of care being developed and good practitioners willing to partner with patients to help them make the best decisions, and actually take the time to hear them and provide this guidance. You should go find one.

Jeffrey Gladd is a family physician specializing in integrative medicine at GladdMD Integrative Medicine.

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