In my mind, the doctor-patient relationship is sancrosanct. There is no relationship where the bond of trust should be so strong, outside of matrimony. As physicians, patients rely on us to help them make life-saving decisions. And we need patients to be honest with us so that we can give the highest quality medical advice. Yet, there has been an erosion in this relationship over recent years. Doctors are no longer held in such high esteem as they were decades ago. Even our own Commander-in-Chief, President Obama, alluded to the fact that doctors have financial incentive to do more surgeries. The public is losing their trust in us. They see us as driven for profit. They feel we don’t listen to their concerns anymore and don’t care what they want or need.
♦ Third parties are often making decisions. For example, they dictate their own formularies, and we often have our hands tied as to what medications we can prescribe. I often have patients ask me for the “strong Stuff.” They don’t realize that doctors are limited in prescribing habits, and we are not withholding the Best medications. But, we are the ones in direct contact with the patient.
♦ Outlier doctors have been gaming the system. Most doctors truly put patients’ care first, before profit. But, there are a few who inappropriately use their medical degrees for profit. Just look at Dr. Oz trying to get rich promoting weight loss products with no proven benefit. These doctors make us all look bad.
♦ There are many mandates imposed on us that affect patient care. One example is meaningful use. Doctors now have to document many metrics, inputting data into our EHR systems, in order to meet requirements. Patients take this lack of eye-to-eye contact as a sign that we are more interested in their digital record than them. They feel we are no longer listening to them. They don’t realize that we don’t want to be doing this. It has been opposed on us from on high, and we will be penalized if we don’t.
♦ HMO’s have greatly cut reimbursements to doctors. In order for practices to stay afloat financially, we have to see more patients. We need to find more and more room to see these extra patients if we want to stay afloat. Patients feel this and take it as an indication that we are pushing them through for profit and don’t care about them.
♦ Media tends to portray doctors in a bad light. There are big stories about the pill mill doctors and those arrested for fraud or harassment. There are so many more amazing stories of heroic doctors around than the bad apples. But the press does not give them attention. People rather see the bad than the good. This too tends to paint us all in a negative light.
Medical diseases are becoming more complex, and people are living longer. There has never been a time where patients need to trust their doctors more. All doctors need to remember their oath and put the patient back in center focus. We all need to take a stand against those doctors who are abusing the system for their own gain. Patients need to learn that the vast majority us care about our patients and have their best interests in mind. We all need to become a team again. Patients need to regain our trust, and our profession needs to re-establish its integrity.
Originally posted in Nov. 2015
Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.
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