Medical Opinions: Everyone has one
Physicians go to medical school for 4 years. Following medical school, which even on quiet weeks requires 60-80 hours of work, they enter more specific and demanding training in their chosen specialty for anywhere from 4 to 8 years. that’s a total of 8-12 years after 4 years of college to hone their skills and begin to independently care for patients. their education does not stop there. Physicians are dedicated and mandated to continue their education for the entirety of their professional careers. good physicians learn to blend compassion with science in order to make the best decisions possible to provide the highest level of care for their patients. And what do they get for all of this effort? They get the opportunity to defend their practice management decisions with patients who have absolutely no qualifications to challenge those decisions. Somewhere, somehow along the way patients develop medical opinions that they often hold in higher esteem than those of their physician.
Where do they get this information that they use to develop these opinions? The internet is a very frequently accessed source. Is it reliable? A study from Harvard Medical School recently concluded after an extensive review of internet information that up to 70% of medical information on the internet has some level of medical inaccuracy. Books are another source. Recently a family told me that they did not want to use medication to treat their child diagnosed with ADHD because a book they read was strongly against it. they said that it was the opinion of the author that medications increased the risk of a child with ADHD becoming an addict. Not only was the book written by a Chiropractor who had no training in either ADHD or psychopharmacology but he had his fact backwards. the overwhelming body of evidence proves that treating children early with ADHD PREVENTS the development of substance abuse. Other sources include parents, friends, relatives, people in the grocery store and Starbucks, or just anyone who is willing to listen to your story. Everyone will always share their opinion whether they are qualified or not, even if you don’t solicit it. A patient told me yesterday that her Mother is positive that the shortness of breath she is experiencing cannot under any circumstances be anxiety but is in fact asthma. “Wow”, I said to myself, “She’s good.” Not really.
I do not believe that every physician should be completely paternalistic in the practice of medicine and make every decision for their patients. I believe that practicing good medicine is a partnership between physician and patient and that it is the duty of the physician to guide their patients when their are reasonable options for their treatment. When there is only one clear path to take we should encourage our patient to take it. But when there are several reasonable paths we can provide highly educated guidance to help our patients make a choice that is their best interests.
We defer to all sorts of experts when we need help. Everyone from tradesmen to professionals. Don’t let your medical opinions get in the way of your health.