Do Doctors Need to Do More Than Provide Great Patient Care?

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to listen to a short presentation from Dr. Katharine Smart @KatharineSmart, President of the Canadian Medical Association. During her presentation she made a strong case that physicians of the future will be more tech, data, and social media savvy than ever before – mostly because they will have grown up around it.

She argued that these physicians of the future will be more likely to:

  • Curate trusted medical information for their patients;
  • Be more vocal in dispelling health related misinformation on social media;
  • Engage with peers/patients through online channels;
  • Become health influencers through social media or just in their local communities
  • Be a trusted source of health information beyond a 15min visit

As I normally do, I tweeted out a synopsis of Dr. Smart’s statement while I was listening to her speak. That tweet generated a lot of response – from those that were supportive and from those that clearly took issue with it.

Those that took issue, raised an interesting question: Does a physician need to do more than just provide the best care possible for their patients? Doctors are already pressed for time and don’t spend enough time with patients, so why should we expect them to do more than that?

As is the case on Twitter, there were some negative responses from people who clearly had an axe to grind with Dr. Smart, but their concern was no less valid…and of course, they didn’t have the benefit of the full context of Dr. Smart’s presentation like I did. People only had my single tweet to go by.

Here’s my personal thought on this.

First, I don’t think there is a right or wrong expectation. Expectations, by nature, belong to the person who has the expectation not to the person that the expectation is being placed on. I have always believed that everyone has a right to their own set of expectations. Equally, no one has an obligation to meet anyone else’s expectations. The only expectations you need to meet are your own.

Having said that, I think expectations can be realistic or unrealistic. It’s unrealistic, for example, to expect my friend who is a trained eye-surgeon, to answer my questions about the joint pain I’m experiencing. On the other hand, I think it’s realistic that family practices offer an easier way to book appointments than having to call into their offices during office hours.

Back to Dr. Smart’s comments. I think she is right. I believe that physicians in the future, especially family doctors will be more likely to fight online misinformation. I think they will be much more comfortable engaging through online channels and using those channels to help improve the health of their patients. Does that mean every doctor will become a health influencer with millions of views? Of course not, but I think there will be many more doctors who have dedicated followers from their local communities.

I think it’s a logical outcome. You can help 1 patient by sharing trusted information with them in the exam room. Or you can share that trusted information online where tens, hundreds, or thousands of people can benefit from it.

On the flip side, I do believe that we are at a low point in healthcare right now. We have asked our doctors, nurses, technicians, PSWs, and other healthcare professionals to go above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, we have not supported them as much as we could have. Pay equity is still an issue, arcane red tape still exists, and technology has not gotten appreciably easier to use. I’m not surprised that there are many doctors out there who just want to care for patients.

But what does it say about the state of healthcare that people feel that just caring for patients is as far as doctors can go right now? It says to me we have a lot of work to do to fix healthcare.

Join the next #hcldr tweetchat on Tuesday July 5th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) where we will be discussing the following questions:

  • Q1 Is it unrealistic to expect that doctors do more than provide the best care possible to patients?
  • Q2 Given the current state of healthcare & burnout/moral injury…what are realistic expectations for doctors?
  • Q3 What can realistically be done in the next 6 months to help turn things around for doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals?
  • Q4 What will doctors of the future will be like? What skills will they have? Will they leverage social media? Will they be more vocal in their communities?

References

Chesworth, Brittney. “Health Anxiety and Unrealistic Expectations of Doctors and Tests”, Psychology Today, 18 January 2022, https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/managing-health-anxiety/202201/health-anxiety-and-unrealistic-expectations-doctors-and-tests, accessed 3 July 2022

Berg, Sara. “What doctors wish patients knew about social media’s toxic impact”, American Medical Association, 17 December 2021, https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/population-care/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-social-media-s-toxic-impact, accessed 3 July 2022

Wolf, Steven H. “The Price of False Beliefs: Unrealistic Expectations as a Contributor to the Health Care Crisis”, Annals of Family Medicine, November 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3495921/, accessed 4 July 2022

Esposito, Lisa. “Here’s Why Your Doctor Seems Pressured”, US News, 10 January 2018, https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2018-01-10/heres-why-your-doctor-seems-pressured, accessed 4 July 2022

“Physician Burnout”, AHQR, https://www.ahrq.gov/prevention/clinician/ahrq-works/burnout/index.html, accessed 4 July 2022

“The role of the doctor in the future”, British Medical Association, 27 April 2021, https://www.bma.org.uk/advice-and-support/nhs-delivery-and-workforce/the-future/the-role-of-the-doctor-in-the-future, accessed 4 July 2022

Soubra, Rabih et al. “Future healthcare providers and professionalism on social media: a cross-sectional study”, BMC Medical Ethics, 20 January 2022, https://bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12910-022-00742-7, accessed 4 July 2022

Image Credit

Photo by Thirdman: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-gray-crew-neck-shirt-holding-silver-and-black-pen-5327915/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: