The physician patient relationship is one of the most sacred and special relationships that society holds. It is one of defined caring, compassion, and trust. The Hippocratic Oath states:
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
This is a powerful statement. Nowhere are insurance companies, government agencies, or managed care organizations mentioned. This is the essence of medicine. The patient, The physician. Nothing else.
In this day of electronic medical records, vast insurance companies, governmental intrusion, company owned practices, there are many people that now stand between Physician and patient.
I entered this profession perhaps a bit naïve. My hero, as a youth is perhaps a bit strange to some. It was not a professional athlete, movie star or rock star. It was a simple country doctor in a small town set in early pioneer America, Doc Baker, the town physician in “Little House on The Prairie.” Whether at Doc’s office or the patient’s home, Doc Baker Empathetically plied his profession. His pay… an evening dinner with a family or a fresh pie from the kitchen. No prior authorization, insurance approval, attorneys. Today it takes an act of congress to ask your physician a simple question. There is voicemail, 30 different options on the telephone to route your call, and often a dozen intermediaries who intercept on behalf of the physician.
If the physician-patient relationship is to be preserved there must be direct access to the physician. The manner employed may be debatable- through cell phone, internet, texting or even Facebook. What is not debatable however is the uninterrupted connection between the patient and her physician.
Although perhaps controversial with a few of my colleagues, I regularly give my cell number to my patients. If they need me they simply call.
By and large my patients are very respectful and call only when they genuinely need advice or to be seen immediately. In this small way, I continually hope to take another step to emulating my childhood hero, Doc Baker.