Much is now given to, and expected of, doctors

July 10, 2013

Doctors have more tools at their disposal for helping patients than ever before, but demands on them are also greater.

A verse from the Book of Luke in the New Testament reads,  “To whom much is given is much required.” On a recent Monday morning a retired pharmacist friend of mine asked, “Ready for the week?” Another senior chimed in, “You don’t go to the hospital anymore, do you? How come?”

I thought for a moment and answered them both, “There’s so much more expected from us these days, it’s impossible to do both jobs and do them well.”

That’s when the expression above popped into my head. The information I now have at my fingertips and the available capacity I have to communicate with my patients is just remarkable. Equally incredible is the expectation of those who are empowered to define just what is “quality healthcare” in this new era of accelerating change.

Gone are the days when it’s one doctor and one patient in a room having a conversation, and the discussion and treatment plan remain unique to that one relationship. Documentation, measurement, and accountability now define modern-day medicine.

Oh, how doctors and other healthcare providers struggle to preserve what’s personal while embracing the need for “big data.” But you see, some of the wonderful innovations-like voice-activated dictation-do not permit the collecting of clinical data for measurement. In fact, to prove our worth to the powers that be that control licensure, certification and critical funding we must click the right box and often enter data hundreds if not a thousand or more times a day. Only in this way can we demonstrate our value to these large corporate, state, and federal entities.

Not a bad undertaking and absolutely necessary to get a handle on the quality and cost of the care we deliver, just very difficult to manage and yet stay focused on the needs of the patients with whom we connect over and over again during the course of our day.

Delivering healthcare today feels like being that young child who always needs to learn, acquire new skills and make their way in the world. Fits and starts, failures and successes, two steps forward one and half steps back-that is the definition of our progress.

Be patient with your doctors and everyone everywhere who touches you with healthcare. We are doing our best to embrace change.

H. Andrew Selinger MD

Farmington, Connecticut