The roles of doctor and patient in the future: What was the immature patient yesterday has long since changed. The one who just had to wait patiently and yield to the judgement of the only competent expert in white is no longer satisfied with this role. Or at least should not do it anymore. See below for counter-examples.
Steven Joffe from the University of Pennsylvania has just described in a pleasingly differentiated and clear article how the three factors of patient rights, available knowledge and direct-to-consumer tests have lastingly changed the doctor-patient relationship. He outlines how the immature patient comes to eye level. Joffe’s article deserves an urgent reading recommendation. It is hereby pronounced.
- Factor 1: Patient rights. For the first time ever, their formulation has led to the claim of patients to have their own opinion, their own decision and the corresponding information provided by the physician.
- Factor 2: The Internet as a constantly growing source of medical knowledge.
- Factor 3: The increasing availability of medical tests with scientific requirements directly for patients. We have already discussed this new role for laboratories with the associated business models on various occasions here and here. Joffe clearly emphasizes the impact of this development on the entire healthcare system.
For the sake of precision, we are talking here exclusively about the doctor-patient relationship between practicing physicians. The immature patient of the hospital is a similar but more complex subject. I will take up this point at a later date.
A contemporary role of the doctor
Joffe shows how, on the one hand, our traditional image of roles in health care is still very much alive. Here is the expert whose judgement is to be followed. There the receiving patient. On the other hand, Joffe demonstrates how these roles already lose their justification.
The contemporary and forward-looking role of doctors is therefore threefold:
- The doctor as the patient’s advisor and health coach,
- the gatekeeper for advanced medical knowledge and special testing, and
- Finally, access to optimal follow-up services. That is, the medically necessary, although perhaps not directly required of the patient. Here, the doctor is the one who has an overview of the consequences of an illness and treatment. Who, on his own initiative, is committed to what is medically necessary – and in this way creates added value.
So much for the present.
Second opinion at Yahoo?
However, this present also includes this picture from a doctor’s office, which has been circulating on Twitter these days and has received thousands of approvals within a very short time:
The reaction: several thousand likes, hundreds of comments along a line “Patients can be so annoying if they don’t trust the doctor’s diagnosis”. Yes, they are, at least for perceived half- and three-quarter gods in white. Is a doctor afraid of patients who want to take responsibility for themselves? In any case, he has difficulties with setting commas in the4 German language. But there is always something.
Those who hang up such signs in their practice deny their patients much more than just the ability to search the Internet for specific health information. With the reference to Yahoo, the poster looks like it did in the year 2000. The mentality behind it is much older; it goes back deep to the last century.
Counter-question: Who seriously wanted to recommend to a patient to rely exclusively on the knowledge that a single expert reproduces from his memory within a few minutes? With an effort of research, limited by the time that the health care system is currently paying.
A future-oriented role for the physician
Even more important from the point of view of futurology is the question of how to continue the series of trends and drivers:
Patient rights, available high-quality knowledge and B2C test procedures are followed at least by
- Artificial intelligence in everyday use by doctor and patient,
- an exponentially growing database in type and quantity,
- large international players who are entering the healthcare market and claim a competent role here,
- more and more: an interpretation of biology and medicine as information technology.
On this basis we then negotiate the roles between health seeker (ex-patient) and competent companion, supporter and initiator (ex-physician). The immature patient has had his day.