New Jersey oncologist Dr. James Salwitz, in his blog post called Why Is The Doctor Angry?, tells the story of the day that one of his patients became very ill. Instead of calling Dr. Salwitz, however, his patient emailed a doctor 3,000 miles away in California as he became sicker and sicker. The California doctor forwarded the emails back to Dr. Salwitz, who immediately sent his patient to hospital with multiple system failures. Dr. S said that he felt angry about his patient’s behaviour, explaining:
“Did I look him in the eye and tell him that I was upset, that he had neglected his own care by not reaching out and in doing so he violated the basic tenants of a relationship which said that he was the patient and I was the doctor?”
“Did I remind him what I expect from him and what he can expect from me? You better believe it – I was really pissed!”
In classic scientific understatement, U.K. researchers Drs. Michael Kelly and Mary Barker observed that “most efforts to change health behaviours have had limited success.”(1)
No kidding. Right now, even as you read this, academic researchers all over the globe are applying for (and getting) grant funding to embark on yet another new study examining smokers who don’t quit, couch potatoes who don’t get off the couch, or overweight people who don’t lose weight. I can’t be 100% certain, of course, but I’m betting my next squirt of nitro spray that these studies will no doubt conclude that, yes indeed, those people do need to change their behaviour, and “further study is required”.Continue reading “Six ways NOT to motivate patients to change”→
Non-compliant patients who, for whatever reason, do not follow doctors’ orders are a pain in the neck to their physicians. But to me, the most problematic part of that statement is the use of the word non-compliant. Simon Davies of the U.K.’s Teenage Cancer Trust once described it as “a word that sounds like it has punishment at the end of it.”Yet physicians are frustrated about why so many of us still refuse to take their expert medical advice. Continue reading “First, there was compliance. Then, adherence. Now, concordance!”→
I’ve written a lot (here, here, and here, for example) about cardiac pain, because I live with cardiac pain called refractory angina due to a pesky post-heart attack diagnosis of coronary microvascular disease. This pain varies, but it hits almost every day, sometimes several episodes per day, and it can feel very much like the symptoms I experienced while busy surviving what doctors call the widow maker heart attack in 2008.
But there’s pain, and then there’s suffering. The two are not the same.
I spent many years working in the field of hospice palliative care, where we all learned the legendary Dame Cicely Saunders‘ definition of what she called “total pain”.(1) This is the suffering that encompasses ALL of a person’s physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and practical struggles. Although addressing total pain is an accepted component of providing good end-of-life care for the dying, the concept seems to be often ignored in cardiac care for the living. Continue reading “Pain vs. suffering: why they’re not the same for patients”→
Way back in 1847, the American Medical Association panel on ethics decreed that “the patient should obey the physician.”
There may very well be physicians today – in the era of empowered patients and patient-centred care and those darned Medical Googlers – who glance nostalgically backwards at those good old days.
Let’s consider, for example, the simple clinical interaction of prescribing medication. If you reliably take the daily meds that your doctor has prescribed for your high blood pressure, you’ll feel fine. But if you stop taking your medication, you’ll still feel fine. At least, until you suffer a stroke or heart attack or any number of consequences that have been linked to untreated hypertension.
Those who do obediently take their meds are what doctors call “compliant”. And, oh. Have I mentioned how much many patients like me hate that word?