The Disappearing Art of Heart

The Disappearing Art of Heart : By Pariksith Singh, MD

May 15, 2018

It is perhaps a symptom of our society today that respect for the doctor is falling. Google is available widely for any medical search. Pharmaceutical companies are marketing directly to the consumer. Pharmacists and non-physician practitioners can easily dispense treatments and write prescriptions. And, in India, there is even a movement to allow alternative medical practitioners to write prescriptions and treat patients as regular doctors would.


As health care is evolving rapidly, one hears of paradigms where even the relevance of doctors is questioned. Tele-medicine, e-medicine with apps, and retail medicine have taken the sheen away from the doctor where they are no longer the center of new models of health care.


There was a time when the doctor was amongst the most respected members of society. I remember the moment when I decided to switch careers from physics and mathematics to medicine. I did so not for lucre or return on investment but because I wanted to serve and heal. The doctor then was perhaps as important as a priest or a teacher. That name, regard, respect, recognition is all lost now.


What the doctor says can be easily questioned. Successive governments and insurances have arrogated medical decision-making to themselves. A pile of paperwork is thrown at physicians every day. We hear of new indictments of physicians regularly. In India, physicians have been beaten ruthlessly by irate patients and families when they did not get the answers they wanted.


And yet? Are we not to blame, ourselves? At least, partially? And I say this with humility, knowing full well how my limitations have affected my practice and care of patients.


  1. We can be open, transparent, and compassionate where we are not all-knowing. We can create a culture of the family even though the days of the Family Doctor are gone.


  1. We can take the lead in our practice and instill in our staff the values of quality, integrity, and caring even if we cannot change the world with our leadership.


  1. While we were harried, busy, rushed, and chased, politicians, lawyers, and accountants were busy writing regulations for us, without proper understanding or sympathy.


  1. While we were busy defending the status quo, the world of medicine underwent seismic shifts before our eyes. And we did nothing. Perhaps, like ostriches, buried our heads deeper in the sands of illusion and complacence. We failed to play the detective on ourselves and our actions or lack thereof. Our representative organizations are effete, busy with minutia, and without leverage on a larger scale.


  1. It may be time to appreciate our mission once again. To look at our past errors with clear eyes. To re-learn. To go to the basics of paying attention, smiling, being sensitive to those who entrust us with their lives. To organize and lead from the front. After all, we are the ones who live health care along with our patients. To care. To feel and understand and appreciate once again.


  1. To stand up against our wrongs and take a stand. In India, coronary stents and orthopedic implants were being sold at ten times their retail price, more than even their cost in the US. It is only when the government took the step of drastically slashing the prices of these that the medical fraternity noticed.


If we wish to be relevant, we should ask a simple question? Why does society need us? What value do we bring? Once we identify that, we should eliminate all else and stay in our core, no matter what happens. There is so much money being thrown around in this ‘business’ that the calling is lost. We can restore it. We are the only ones who can.


Communities will listen to us only when they know that we have only their best interest at heart. When trust returns, when we again earn their respect, then we might be able to change what is wrong with the health care system.


Isn’t that our job, as healers?

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