Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Medicine and Fast Food

No, the practice of medicine is not like fast food.

We live in a society of fast cars, fast food, instant messages, and instant pictures.  We want it our way and we want it now.  This is evident by the fact that the average American household has $16,000.00 in credit card debt (2011 Household Statistics).  We want it now and well worry about payment or consequence later. This is also evident by the successes of instant messaging services, cell phones and fast food restaurants.

As a family practitioner, I feel pressured by both patients and insurance companies to serve up a diagnosis and a low cost generic pill with the same speed.  No, the practice of medicine is not like fast food. If it were, then I would install a drive up window next to my office desk, and place a large marquee with a clown wearing a stethoscope at my front door.

Medicine is an art.  A picture is painted of the patient by what is seen, heard, felt and understood through the eyes of the practitioner.  This can't be done over the phone or through a drive-through window. It requires a patient who is willing to place his or her history, symptoms, feelings, private concerns and trust upon the examination table It requires the astute observer to see all the reflections of light and shadows and all the highlights.  It requires the observer, the doctor, to recognized that many times this is difficult for the patient.  That trust is built through a relationship that occurs over a period of minutes and a period of years.  The beauty of the art occurs when the practitioner and the patient understand one another and application of healing can begin.

The art of medicine paints a different picture every time. That's why art isn't sold under the golden arches, or at the corner pharmacy.  No, the practice of medicine is not like fast food.

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