Our doctors are human. At least until doctors become automated AI robots, they are human, like us. That means that in spite of an elevated GPA, they still suffer the same human indignities that everyone faces. They come in all shapes, colors and religions.
When we sit in front of our doctors, we choose to believe we are their first priority and their knowledge is all encompassing, even if they haven’t had time to study what has been changing in their medical world over the last ten years. When your doctor tells you something, your doctor can only share what he or she knows. Human! It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the changes in medicine on a daily basis. And, the new medical model that we are all experiencing rarely allows our doctors to spend more than ten minutes with us.
Today's medical doctors live in a different world than their forefathers did. Today, they are subject to the dictates of their insurance carriers, big pharma, their practice management, and their hospital affiliation. That is a lot of priorities and agendas and bosses. They, and I mean this with all due respect, all these priorities and agendas are in front of us. If they disagree with the management protocols of their affiliated hospital and they choose not to go along to get along, they could lose their affiliation and therefore the loss of being able to get paid from an insurance carrier. And, that means bankruptcy.
What if a doctor’s beliefs differ from the business model of their affiliated non-profit hospital? If the doctor is dependent upon the income generated by that affiliation, he must go along to get along and you might have read that burn out from nurses and doctors across western medicine is epidemic. Is there a correlation?
The Atlantic Monthly in 2017 published an amazing article about one of our best-selling medicines. One of the findings documented that the popular blood pressure medicine, Atenolol did not reduce heart attacks or deaths—patients on Atenolol just had better blood-pressure numbers when they died.
“For all the truly wondrous developments of modern medicine—imaging technologies that enable precision surgery, routine organ transplants, care that transforms premature infants into perfectly healthy kids, and remarkable chemotherapy treatments, to name a few—it is distressingly ordinary for patients to get treatments that research has shown are ineffective or even dangerous. Sometimes doctors simply haven’t kept up with the science. Other times doctors know the state of play perfectly well but continue to deliver these treatments because it’s profitable.” -- Atlantic Monthly, 2017
When we were young, most of us grew up watching Max Fleischer's "Popeye" cartoons. They began in the thirties, almost one hundred years ago. There was one key line in the theme song that seemed to fly over everyone's head: "I yam wot I yam and that's all wot I yam, I'm Popeye the sailor man." Now, we can look at that and see that this peculiar character accepted himself, no matter how strange his actions or looks were. He was full of self-respect. He was important. He accepted himself for what he was. But, for reasons unknown, even though we may have heard this jingle thousands of times, most of us grew up with many self-doubts. As a result, the vanity business grew to a multi-billion dollar industry in our lifetime. Think about all the medical procedures and beauty products that are designed to help us feel better about ourselves.
Our misfortune in our not incorporating the "I yam wot I yam" message contributes to our not insisting that we are truly seen and heard by our medical providers when they are proposing a treatment plan for us. Most of us feel as though we don't deserve to insert our quality of life into our own prognosis. Unfortunately, it's easier to question a priest than a cop and easier to question a cop than a doctor. These are the simple authoritarian beliefs most of us live under.
As patients, do we deserve to be seen and heard in the Western Medicine business model?