If you’ve ever wondered what compassionate healthcare might look like, you should read this column from the NY Times. It’s about a professor of medicine at Stanford University who advocates for better bedside skills in modern medicine. Dr. Abraham Verghese believes doctors should actually listen to patients, ask them questions and then (gasp!) occasionally touch them.
“The busy practitioner struggles with time pressures,” Dr. Verghese responded. “But hurrying through makes us just hurry through. We order a lot of tests because we think we are saving time or because we are uncertain. If you spend more time listening to a patient or being more thoughtful, you end up saving time.”
You could end up saving a life, too.
I found it interesting last year when, in the midst of my radiation planning, that the radiation oncologist did a more thorough physical examination than any of my various surgeons and medical oncologists had done. He poked and prodded and asked questions. I’m an advocate for high-tech medicine, but not at the expense of high-touch care. I believe the latter is crucial to my well-being, as it is to other patients. A laying on of hands is a ritual we need in order to establish trust in our care-givers, and to know all the bases are being covered.
Medicine is so much more than scans and labs. I’m weary of doctors whose noses hardly come out of their notes during an office visit. I want them to acknowledge the high drama that a visit to the hospital or clinic often is for us, and to show the care and concern we deserve as patients.