Patient-centered care in an IPatient world

- ©Glow Images: models for illustrative purposes only

Ever think about the origins of the barber pole with its red and white strips and brass cup? It represents the bloody bandages of the barber profession from centuries ago which included performing surgeries and dentistry for customers. You can guess what the cup was used for.

Present day doctoring has advanced in so many ways since the days of knives and bloodletting. Now there is robotic surgery and nuclear medicine. The training and expertise needed by today's physician attest to the skills required to operate complex instruments and the software that runs them.

And while the advancement of these innovating technologies has been welcomed in the health care community, experts are questioning whether the patient has been left behind in the push towards modernized medical treatment. Welcome to the world of the "iPatient".

"The patient in the bed has become an icon," according to Abraham Verghese, M.D., renowned physician, author, and senior associate chair for the theory and practice of medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He spoke at the Fifth Annual Medical-Spirituality Conference sponsored by Boonshoft School of Medicine, Wright State University.

Verghese suggests the purpose of admission to a hospital is to "render the live 3-demensional patient into a 2-demensional image." In other words the patient is viewed from screens, displays and readouts. This rise in "remote diagnosis" is to help speed the treatment process, especially when several specialists are involved. That can often lead to stress and other issues that adversely impact healing, according to Verghese.

The work that goes on behind a monitor and in the conference room on behalf of the patient can actually promote a feeling of inattentiveness on the patient's part. A sense of isolation and lack of connectivity ensue, feelings that do not encourage healing. "We are hungry for Love, for the white-winged charity that heals and saves," wrote Mary Baker Eddy, a late 19th/early 20th century pioneer in the research linking consciousness and spirituality to well-being.

A 2-demensional patient is really a misnomer. In fact a 3-dementional patient is also an inaccurate rendering of man and womanhood. The intangibles of being, things like love, compassion, confidence, hope and other qualities point to the multi-dimensional facets of the individual, aspects that cannot be ignored in securing healthy outcomes and furthering long lives.

Verghese points to the intricacies of patient care when referring to something as simple as a doctor's tone of voice. He remarked during the conference that his or her bedside manner and attitude can have a placebo (positive) or nocebo (negative) effect on the patient.

A vocal advocate for patients, Verghese says that the new buzzword in health care delivery is "patient satisfaction." While striving for quality has been the focus of health professionals for some time, patient-centered care is getting a lot of attention. Seeing the patient as an integral part of the healing process will help in the drive towards quality care.

Verghese quoted Dr. Francis Peabody, early 20th century internal medicine specialist responsible for establishing hospitals in the U.S. and China. He too was a strong supporter of the patient. "For the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient." That's the bedrock of health care.


Steve Salt is a syndicated health blogger and a Christian Science teacher and practitioner. This post was originally published on the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Follow him on twitter @saltseasoned.

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