It’s the age of medical disconnect.
The disconnect describes the emotional and intellectual detachment that physicians feel from their patients and patients from their doctors. This disconnect is the result of a confluence of factors, some from within the profession itself, others are more broadly social and economic.
To understand the disconnect you need look no further than your neighbor or your parents. Dissatisfaction is evolving as the norm. Patients feel increasingly marginalized in their experiences with physicians. Shrinking length of visits, indifferent attitudes, poorly coordinated evaluations, difficulty obtaining test results, an institutional feel to the patient experience, and the overall sense of not feeling at all important.
The truth is that many of us are really not aware of the disconnect. Most of us have been born into a system of dysfunctional provider relationships and we know nothing else. As physicians we’ve been trained to be detached. As patients we’ve been conditioned to live happily detached.
Of course there are plenty of physicians who defy the trend to be removed from their patients. And we hear about them but more in the context of an anomaly. It’s as if people are shocked when a physician makes a remarkable connection. It’s newsworthy. This is indicative of the disconnect.
As a physician I have had the experience of seeing health care at the cusp of two generations. I’ve watched it unfold. I’ve watched the dialog in the ‘social space’. This is vernacular for the web based spots where people gather to talk about their diseases, doctors, and dissatisfaction. They’re taking matters into their own hands. I’ve listened. I have participated, but as much out of selfish curiosity as anything else.
Doctors and patients are in the process of radical redefinition. While most of us don’t see it, our roles in the next generation will be unrecognizable to what we understand today. Most of us have our noses to the ground just looking to survive another day. But if you step away from the canvas a bigger picture begins to emerge.
It’s an amazing time to be in medicine. I consider it a gift to witness the disconnect.