Systems and Structure Often Divide the Physician - Patient Relationship

The famous line " patients often only have 10 to 15 minutes" with physicians has become synonymous with the perception that physicians almost deliberately don't want to spare time for patients. In a relationship like theirs, which is supposed to be transparent, welcoming and supportive, the perception mostly from patients is quite the opposite. That is what we hear from patients including caregivers. However, if we get an intimate understanding of most physicians' sentiment, they are often misunderstood.  In Paul Kalanithi's (Neurosurgeon, Neuroscientist and writer) book, When Breath Becomes Air , he was both a doctor first, then became a patient who later died of Stage 4 lung cancer in 2015. In his words, "patients, when they hear the "news", they mostly remain mute (one of the early meanings of patient, after all, is one who endures hardship without complaint)". As doctors, they are called not only to solve the medical problem but also to consider that there is a human being behind the disease that doesn't only need treatment but also protection. 

Unfortunately, this relationship gets broken unbeknownst to both, due to increasing systemic requirements and expectations on the use of new tools e.g. EHRs and everything that are required to improve clinical administration, drive efficiencies and business optimization. Along these lines, the doctor - patient relationship is transformed into a medical transaction that transpires in less than "15 minutes". 

I hope that all of us who consider ourselves as "healthcare innovators" will not forget that against the backdrop of rising use of technology, healthcare data and analytics, improvements in healthcare outcomes, digital health, there is a special human relationship between a doctor and a patient that need to thrive; especially in an imperfect environment where uncertainty, change and hope often collide. 

I will strive to always remember this.