Well now, that is a potentially loaded sentence isn’t it? It has probably a million different meanings. Let me dive right in and explain how it applies to me. I am definitely not traditional in terms of my medical practice and how I deal with patients, or even how I look on the day to day basis. Let me explain first what I mean by traditional. If I take a patient poll right now regarding what my patients initially expect a doctor to look like and act like, the majority would answer something like this. They would expect a somewhat “stiff,” white coat wearing, dressed up, slightly haughty, talk at you not to you, somewhat patriarchal, person who would tell them what to do, use only traditional Western medicine, spend an inadequate amount of time with them, treat them like the next cattle in line, prescribe them something, and then walk out the door….after first making them wait an inordinate amount of time. Yes folks, it is true. A lot of patients have rather low expectations of their physicians and unfortunately, there seem to be too many physicians out there who meet those criteria. This is truly unfortunate and I do not really know how this got started. To take this a step further, it seems to throw patient’s off and actually scare them a little bit when a physician comes along who does not fit these check boxes. There seems to be a certain level of comfort that comes along with these low expectations. These low expectations actually help continue to foster the growing culture of doctor versus patient that seems to be developing in our country. The pervasive thought trend that all doctors are just out to make money and don’t actually care stems from these low expectations and is so harmful. It gets in the way of patient care, increases non-compliance and really damages the potential doctor patient relationship. I have actually had patients leave my practice because I did not fit these checkboxes! ( I was too thorough, talked too much, spent too much time on the visit..etc)
I am happy to report that I tend to not fit these check boxes. This is by careful and thoughtful design. I do not wear a white coat every day. I make eye contact. I talk with patients not at them. i am sometimes in the room for 45 min or more, because I feel like I will miss something important if i don’t spend enough time. I don’t dress to the nines every day. Mind you, I do not look like I just rolled out of bed either.( That is, unless I have been on call all night and there has literally been only 20 minutes to get myself together and run to the office. I need to let myself have some leeway there.) My scrub uniform is pink with pretty black lacy letters. My hair is black cherry and blonde. Dag gum it I even have tattoos!( cue gasp) Sometimes this really sets patients back a beat when they first meet me and it affects how they react to me.
Let me give you an extreme example. Ever the fan of a social experiment, when I was a wee babe in my 30s when I first started, I used to put my hair in two pony tails sometimes when I operated on patients. I did this for several reasons. 1) It sometimes gets really hot in the OR! 2) My hair was too short to fit it into one ponytail at the time and 3) I wanted to see if patients and families would react to my input differently based upon how I looked. Wow it really did! I would go to the family waiting room, with my ID badge in plain site, explain the details of an intricate operation and how I just saved a loved one’s life. The family would listen with complete attention…and then proceed to ask me at the end when the doctor was coming to talk to them! I would politely inform them that I was the physician and refer to my ID badge and they would respond with polite surprise. That stuff never happened when I nixed the pony tails and just wore my hair down. Besides this just being an interesting little past story, my point is that society really seems to judge their physicians, and even their offices, by appearance. We like that snazzy dresser with the beautiful state of the art office, even if their service is terrible and the results aren’t what we would like. This is not the way to go and the best way to measure physician quality. Trust me, I have been in some absolutely beautiful offices with very glamorous physicians …..who I would not go back to if you paid me because the care that I got was not worth it! I love beautiful offices and people as much as anybody, but those are not what I base my doctor selection on. The real measure of quality of a physician should not be how the office looks or how well he or she dresses. It shouldn’t be how quickly you get out of there or how often you can “get what you want” from them or what pills he or she gave you. It should be measured by the quality of the service, how much time the physician spent with you, whether the staff was courteous and helpful, whether you felt comfortable at the office, and whether your concerns were addressed appropriately. These are the real measures of a physician and his or her office. Now I am not saying that you should go to a doctors office that’s seedy, dirty, disorganized and the doctor looks like he or she just rolled out of bed. There are certain basic requirements to instill basic confidence. I am just saying that appearance should not be the only thing. Bottom line, if you are scared off by tattoos, trendy hair or someone that talks with you and addresses all your concerns to the fullest, then I am not the physician for you. Otherwise, let’s start a great patient physician care partnership together and I look forward to helping you. Have a wonderful day!