Here’s a sneak peek at the fall Quarterly magazine’s Message From Your President.
I never thought I would ever hear myself saying to young physicians that “Back when I started practice we…(fill in the blank).” To me that was akin to my Father telling me he walked 10 miles to school in the snow (uphill both ways), or the older docs telling me that during their residencies they were on-call every night and had to sharpen their own needles, and by the way, they weren’t paid at all, or when they were paid it would be in live chickens.
However, I often find myself, like many of my contemporaries, lamenting the changes in medicine and wishing for the “good old days.” So, I ask the question, “Are times really that bad, or is this just natural evolution?” If everything else in our society has changed, why shouldn’t healthcare? As a society, we seem to no longer value “expert” opinion or even the infallibility of science. Web searches provide instant answers for every question with little attention paid to the sources of that information. People now develop strong opinions based on what “they say.” We now place our personal beliefs on equal footing as those of experts when we disagree. I don’t “believe” in vaccines or global warming, being prime examples. So no wonder we physicians are no longer held to the esteem in which we were in the past.
However, we remain the indispensable experts to manage the evermore complex healthcare landscape. No internet search, patient care navigator or other healthcare provider can substitute for a physician to understand and prioritize the vast amount of information available to make healthcare decisions. We alone have the intimate knowledge of the unique characteristics of each patient to make a diagnosis and to develop a treatment plan specifically to fit his or her individual needs.
I submit that physicians are on a normal evolutionary path. We simply must adapt our communications skills to incorporate the new languages of social media and re-establish our expert credentials where people now look for healthcare information. Because most healthcare decisions start with internet searches, we need search engine optimization strategy instead of yellow pages ads. Our web interfaces need to be more than directories of clinic operations. They need to be trusted sources of information that announce over and over to the world that we are the experts.
It’s not really that bad.