The practice of medicine is an art. The best delivery of care needs commitment and one must have a passion for it. But it is sad that this vital element is largely missing in the younger generation. The change in attitude among them as compared to the traditional approach, perhaps triggered by many factors including current social outlook, stressed lifestyle, among others, is also a by-product of increased automation and specialisation in healthcare.
Specialisation and automation are important. These are great things that have not only made many of the traditional and suboptimal practices and technologies outdated, but also contributed immensely to the improvement in medicine. But I feel these scientific achievements are yet to be fully exploited for the benefit of the patients in the absence of a passion for care.
Healthcare is always a blend of science and art. I feel that care won’t be complete and fulfilling unless these two components come together. Specialisation has led to a trend where doctors have stopped looking at patients holistically. For example, when a patient comes to a cardiologist with a complaint of chest pain, he or she is often not examined or advised further if the condition is unrelated to the heart. This new trend cuts away the opportunity for the doctor to know his patient holistically, taking away the human touch in the doctor-patient relationship.
No doubt young doctors who enter the field nowadays after their post-graduation and sub specialisation are pretty good at their subjects. But we don’t often see commitment and dedication in their approach to
patients, or at least they surely don’t express it the way the older generation used to. A holistic approach always helps the doctor understand his patients fully and help them recover either directly or through the right references.
There comes the importance of the traditional “family doctor” system, where patients are treated or advised by the family physician, who knows the patient, his or her history and even the family well, and then refer them to the specialist with the proper description if needed.
In today’s automated healthcare system, the levels of honesty and integrity are also debatable as the new generation doctors often depend on the machine for each and every investigation at the cost of the patient without applying his or her clinical examination skills. The ideal practice of medicine is to understand the patient’s condition by listening to them to know the symptoms and at least make a provisional diagnosis of the problem through clinical examination and through your experience before embarking on the treatment or referring them to another specialist.
All the above value systems are actually part of the word ‘art’ that I mentioned earlier. But this component is slowly dying out among the younger generation, which is not a desirable trend. So, it is high time we included this as an essential component of medical education and training.
— As told to CH Unnikrishnan