Read with interest this opinion piece in the NY Times. In it Dr. Peter Salgo, a doctor,professor, and TV medical expert, bemoans this drive to make patients like customers, saying it encourages those in the medical profession to see us as numbers, not human beings.
It is a most confusing piece, to be honest.
He starts by decrying this shift from patient to customer, claiming:
This may seem a trivial matter, but it is not. You treat "patients" as if they were members of your family. You talk to them. You comfort them. You take time to explain to them what the future may hold in store. Sometimes, that future will be bleak. But you assure them you will be there to help them face it.
OK, well, perhaps I'm too young to have had a doctor like that, being only in my early 40s. I have no trouble imagining my grandfather, the doctor, having such a warm like-family attitude. But can't say I've ever felt I was treated like family. Not even by my dentist, who I've been seeing for literally 25 years.
But then Dr. Salgo loses me in his logic:
You, the patient, are the system's best hope. In the age of seven-minute health care, you need to realize that you employ doctors. That is, your doctor works for you. Although doctors shouldn't think of patients as customers, you can, and should, adopt a business mind-set when shopping for health care.
Huh? Doesn't that seem like a recipe for resentment, and unmet expectations?
And where is it written that a business-like relationships can't include honest communication and empathetic treatment? I have spent many an hour on the phone with upset customers, or frustrated sales people, or in a one-on-one with an over-stressed employee. At no point did having a "business mind-set" preclude my having an empathetic and caring response. In fact in my business listening and advising and consulting are key personal skills I need to have.
I honestly didn't get the vision of the world this essay painted.