Vail Daily column: Doctor-patient relationship has changed
I’m an old enough to remember a time when doctors had time to care about my health. I remember doctor house calls. I remember a time when I would walk into the exam room and the doctor knew my whole medical history, and knew it well, without looking into my medical chart.
Shortly after moving to Colorado in the early ’90s, my pediatrician had to let me go as a patient. Yep, I felt I was officially fired. He explained to me that because I was in my 30s, living in another state and that it was impossible to diagnose me without seeing me — I had to find another doctor.
I was a bit hurt by this. I felt abandoned and even a bit scared.
Yes, I saw my pediatrician until I was almost 30. Going to his office and seeing that almost all the chairs were bright primary colors and too small to seat me never bothered me nor did I feel out of place. I never gave a second thought to the fact that the magazines strewn about the office were Highlights, Kids and Mad Magazine, and not Sports Illustrated or National Geographic. As a matter of fact, I felt more comfortable there, in my pediatrician’s office, than I often do now at the office of my primary care provider or any of the specialists I see.
My pediatrician knew me — all of me. When I had my tonsils removed, he suggested the doctor and collaborated with that doctor afterwards when I had complications. When I needed allergy shots, he suggested the doctor and, again, collaborated with that doctor. When I came to see him for a follow-up visit, he already knew all my information from the other providers. He navigated and managed all my health needs.
The time of the family doctor has passed
The time when medical providers had only a handful of patients and were able to manage a patient’s complete care has passed.
Nowadays, I truly realize and appreciate how convenient it was to have one medical provider manage my care. Now, I have a primary care doctor; an ear, nose and throat doctor; an eye doctor; and multiple orthopedic doctors. Trying to keep all of them informed about my conditions, medical history and medications is quite challenging.
Sadly, today’s health care is often mandated by corporate requirements and focused on margins. When doctors are asked (or forced) to see patients every 11 to 15 minutes, there’s too often not enough time available to foster what I consider to be one of the most valuable aspects of quality health care — a patient-doctor relationship.
Developing better health care outcomes
In today’s medical environment, managing your own health care must be the responsibility of the patient. Long gone are the days of the primary care physician providing complete care. Today’s primary care physicians are often hesitant to diagnose and treat ailments that are beyond their field. Rather, they often refer patients to a plethora of specialists.
The process of building a personal connection with all of your healthcare providers can take time. Many studies show that patients who have developed good doctor-patient relationships most often improve their health outcomes.
The best doctor-patient relationships occur when the patient conveys to the medical provider what their symptoms are, how the symptoms are affecting their lives and whether the patient is willing to be proactive in a plan for a cure.
Minimizing your exposure to ailments
One of the best ways you can minimize your visits to the doctor and maintain your overall health is to take care of your yourself on a daily basis. You need to know your numbers.
Knowing your exposure level to diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass can help reduce your risk for major illness. Here are some of the numbers you need to know:
• Blood pressure: A rise can be a sign of heart disease or another major health condition.
• Cholesterol: A rise in LDL can indicate heart disease or other heart or diet problems.
• Blood sugar level: Too high can indicate an insulin problem, prediabetes, or diabetes.
• Body mass: A body mass level greater than 25 means you are at a high level of risk of high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
Health issues most often do not have a single cause — or a single solution. Often, conditions arise from many factors including diet, stress level, exercise habits, and smoking.
It’s up to each one us to speak up and collaborate with our medical providers so that together, we can ensure we receive the best possible healthcare.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visiting angels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.
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