The Art of Healing: Intersecting Intellect and Compassion
I recently read a disturbing article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “It’s Time to Fire Your Doctor” written by Andy Kessler, an American businessman, investor, and author who writes the “Inside View” column for the Wall Street Journal opinion page. In this article, Kessler recommends firing one’s doctor in exchange for taking doctoring into one’s “own hands”. He proposes to start using web-based companies that offer health related services and to rely on apps that can track blood pressure and irregular heart beats like atrial fibrillation. He also proposes to order one’s own blood work through companies like WellnessFX and get results on a smartphone app.
Kessler admits that he is “borderline: hypertensive, high cholesterol, though only ‘pre’-diabetic”. He relies on his Apple watch to do a simple electrocardiogram (EKG tracing of his heartbeat pattern). In fact, he states that when he is asked who his primary care physician is, he responds, “Dr. Webb”. He feels that technology is lowering costs and improving care on all fronts.
Just when I think that he may be starting to make sense in this article by saying that if one does get sick, it is still necessary to see a doctor – as he states that “they have that prescription pad”, he disappoints again. He goes on to recommend using walk-in clinics like Sutter Health that offer appointments for $129. He then continues to amaze me by stating that online care is cheaper so Anthem Blue Cross encourages customers to use LiveHealth, a videoconference platform, for $49. Aetna apparently has a deal with Teladoc for $38 consultations. Really, this is what the sacred physician/patient relationship has come to?
As an OB/GYN, one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is seeing my patients year after year. The continuity of seeing them throughout their life journey is a beautiful gift and privilege that very few of us are blessed with. I truly believe that it is an honor to share that sacred space with patients. Over the last twenty-two years that I have been a physician, I cherish the vivid memories that patients and I have shared. We have laughed together, cried together, embraced each other over the loss of a parent or the loss of their marriage. We have navigated cancer together, have overcome depression, have triumphed over diabetes and heart disease, and have walked the path of surgery step by step together. I have spent many a night lying awake worrying about sick patients, praying for their recovery and for their comfort. I have traded witnessing many of my children’s milestones and accomplishments for being bedside with a sick patient who needed my human touch every bit if not more than my medical acumen.
As a patient myself, I am blessed with extraordinary physicians that take amazing care of me. These physicians have seen me at my most vulnerable and through their impeccable knowledge and dedication to the art of medicine, have restored not only my health but also my faith in what it truly means to be a healer. Healing is an art, it resides at the intersection of intellect and compassion. It cannot be bought or downloaded for $49, $129 or even $199. It does not have an app and cannot be delivered by “Dr. Webb.”
In the final paragraph of his article, Kessler triumphantly states that with replacing the time-honored physician/patient relationship with a new model of technologically driven healthcare, “the revolution is coming. But not from your doctor.” If this new type of medicine is revolutionary, Mr. Kessler, I would happily accept the firing.
Michele A. Couri, MD, FACOG, ABIHM