Why Doctors Aren’t Patients, Too

July 11, 2009 3 comments

Two reasons I write this post:

  1. As I wrote my book (to be published Fall 2009) I researched other books available to help patients become smart patients.  All but two I found were written by doctors.
  2. Healthcare reform seems to have spawned any number of conferences, meetings and gatherings where “all the important stakeholders” are represented at the table.  Except that many of them don’t invite or include patients — evidently we aren’t considered important stakeholders in healthcare.  (she typed as she shook her head….)

So it seems prudent to explain to you why we patients just don’t buy that opinion we get from doctors, nurses or medical professionals, that “we are all patients” or that “doctors are patients, too.”

I believe that no one whose makes their livelihood from medical care is a pure patient, not tainted by medical knowledge, education and experience.

Here’s why:  you can never subtract that knowledge.  You will always have your background to guide you.  Your level of fear, of the unknown, will always be affected by your knowledge of all that surrounds any experience you have as a medical professional.

Saying a doctor is a patient is like saying an auto mechanic is a car owner.  Or that the President of the United States is an American citizen.  Or that a university professor is a student.

And to us patients, it comes across as condescending.

In my book, I describe it like this:  You can never subtract your knowledge of medicine and the system just like you can’t subtract your ability to read.  It will always be with you.

A patient, on the other hand, doesn’t have that knowledge.  Fear of our medical problems is multiplied by our fear of the unknown.

Take a look at this and tell me what it says:

Ορκίζομαι να εκπληρώσει, όσο καλύτερα μου κρίση και ικανότητα, η εν λόγω σύμβαση που έχει:

Θα αφορά το κόπο επιστημονικά οφέλη από αυτές τις ενέργειες των οποίων οι γιατροί σε πάω με τα πόδια, και ευχαρίστως το μερίδιο αυτών των γνώσεων, όπως είναι η δική μου με αυτούς που είναι να ακολουθήσει.*

That’s what medicine feels like to a patient.  We don’t get it. We don’t understand it. We must learn it, beginning at square one.  And once we can do that, we can begin to get past the fear and begin to engage in the conversation.

So please, doctor (or nurse or…) — please don’t tell us you are a patient, too. You may “officially” be one, but you will never be able to think purely like a patient.


*By the way, this is the beginning of the Greek version of something that should be well-known to you.  Something we patients expect you have embraced and practice every day.


Learn more about Trisha and her work.

Learn more about Trisha’s book
You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes

(How to Fix Them to Get the Healthcare You Deserve)


Why “Beyond Grand Rounds”?

Greetings new readers.  Welcome to this blog that’s been a long time in the cogitation process, and has finally taken shape.

Having been thrust, kicking and screaming, with no warning whatsoever, into the dysfunction of American healthcare in the summer of 2004, I have spent these intervening years learning everything I can about the system, how the dysfunction has evolved, and then translating it to patients.

I don’t have to tell you about the frustrations.  As a medical provider, you have chosen a helping, caring profession, only to learn that you must help and care with at least one arm tied behind your back.  You’ve been forced to shift your career’s focus from the practice of medicine to a focus on business.  Without that emphasis, you can’t stay in the business of helping and caring.

And what is your patients’ point of view?  They are frustrated like you are.  But they are confused, too.  They’ve been raised in the land of benevolent, paternalistic medical care. Not understanding your contraints, but experiencing (what they see as) too little time with you at too steep a cost, most patients have become defensive and no longer look to you in the same trustful manner they used to.   We patients have just begun to realize that Marcus Welby has left the building.

Clearly, all the rules have changed. Neither patients nor professionals are happy.

So that’s what this blog is about.  My “day job” is advocating for patients.  With this blog, I will help you understand your patients’ points of view, but I’ll do so within the framework of what I have learned about YOUR point of view.  Here are some objectives:

  • To create more collaborative relationships between providers and patients
  • To translate a patient’s point of view to help you improve your practice
  • To help you run your practice of medicine more efficiently (save time and money) and effectively (better outcomes for you and your patients)

A tall order, don’t you think?

At all times, I welcome your ideas, your arguments, and your agreements.  I have earned the respect I have earned because I listen and learn.  I look forward to discourse over time.

Grand Rounds have helped you learn the nuts and bolts of your medical practice.  As you can see, this will be Beyond Grand Rounds.