My blog site is called All About Healthy Choices. I chose this name to contrast with all my years of clinical training as a physician. Although diagnostics and clinical analysis are important, I have learned that patients need so much more than good lab values to really experience good health.
As a young doctor, I provided my patients with tons of information. I believed their health problems to a large degree was due to a lack of awareness. I was motivated and passionate about impacting my patients’ lives. It never occurred to me that I might want more for my patients then they wanted for themselves. I knew the changes that needed to be implemented in their lives to become healthier and could not understand why their was reluctance. I found it frustrating that my patients complimented me on my efforts, but would not comply with the recommendations in any meaningful way. There was an obvious disconnect and I needed to find out why. Was I not communicating clearly the changes required for a healthy outcome?
After pulling my head out of the medical textbooks, I came to realize that people have emotional needs. Knowing and explaining the clinical changes my patients needed was not enough. I needed to get them emotionally involved with the “fix.” They had my commitment. I needed to get theirs. A lifetime of emotional baggage requires time and patience. A doctor’s office visit can range from 5-15 minutes on average. How could I possibly help these good hearted patients help themselves?
I quickly began to understand the first person that needed to change their thinking and behavior was ME. I needed to LISTEN and understand what factors lead these patients to me. The superficial symptoms (back pain, neck pain, numbness) as well as the more serious symptoms (high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and cancer) provided a tangible starting point. I needed to work with my patients to understand the ROOT CAUSE of their problems. This meant I had to learn about my patients and the various factors in their lives that culminated in the condition they presented with. This process was not taught in school. I learned to examine, diagnose and treat. Early in my practice I began to realize my real education was just beginning if I was going to help patients improve the qualities of their lives.
My first step was to change the doctor/patient relationship. I would no longer act as the Authoritarian dictating healthcare policy. Our relationship transitioned into a team effort. Together, we decided what changes could be achieved to maximize outcome. I began to realize my job was to help my patients achieve the health status they wanted; not what I wanted for them.
Patient outcome started dramatically improving once I began to realize how important the term, HAPPINESS and FULFILLMENT were. As the emotional baggage cleared, patient motivation to comply with recommendations skyrocketed. The focus of the office visit was the patient rather than the symptom. For some, this was the first time they believed someone really cared about them. They expressed a feeling of importance. Treating the patient rather than the symptom proved very successful. This positive feedback helped re-energize and re-motivate my faith in patients and their willingness to participate in their own health improvement.
I encourage all doctors and patients reading this article to recognize that good health is more than just lab reports. Complete wellness incorporates every aspect of the patient. If we as physicians blind ourselves to factors interfering with patient compliance, we are not providing optimal care. It is our job to think outside the box to help identify impediments interfering with patient results. The benefits viewing health care from this perspective will create HAPPINESS AND FULFILLMENT for both the patient and the doctor.