In November’s “O.D. to O.D.,” I shared one of the things I am grateful for everyday: doctors who never give up and who give me all of my options, no matter the price (see bit.ly/2DlmNBx ). Recent experiences, which I will describe below, have taught me the true value of a great doctor vs. a good one. Let me challenge you to continue to be great! “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice,” says author Jim Collins in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t.
I am amazed at how often I have faced obstacles in getting patients the care they need, such as testing, medications and procedures covered by insurance plans. In some cases, the roadblocks ensured the care was truly medically necessary. The good news is that in every case, with a little or a lot of perseverance, success in patient care was achieved. The key element in each case has been diligence in accomplishing the goal.
MORE THAN A HEADACHE
This year I learned how it feels to play the role of patient, as well as doctor (again). In April, I began to suffer extreme headaches very similar to those I experienced when I had viral meningitis. Pain medication was of no benefit. By accident, I found that lying completely flat for 10 minutes eliminated the headache for an hour or two. So, I purchased a bench for my office and changed my schedule to allow for frequent breaks. After four weeks, pain started in my neck, arm and back. After five weeks, vertigo, ringing in the ear, eye pain and nausea began. It was time to go to the ENT.
The ENT listened to my story without interruption, asked a few questions and completed his medical evaluation. Then, with as much kindness as possible, he explained my condition and treatment options. He described the likely problem, a cerebral spinal fluid leak (spinalcsfleak.org). He waited for me to process the information, react and ask questions, which he then patiently answered, knowing that the answers were going to disrupt my world (or at least the world I had created). He then ordered tests, arranged referrals and fought insurance companies with me when they didn’t want to cover the testing. He helped me see specialists quickly when everyone told me the wait would be months. He answered my calls and did everything in his power to get me answers.
LESSONS IN GREATNESS
As a patient, I will never forget the ENT’s lessons on greatness:
- Listen to your patient without interruption.
- Demonstrate empathy when you give your summary of findings and recommendations to your patient.
- Be knowledgeable so you can solve your patient’s problems quickly.
- Prescribe what is best regardless of it being “covered.”
- Follow through the entire care process until transition of care or resolution.
When you, the doctor, become the patient, you learn quickly how everything you do matters. I don’t enjoy being the patient any more than anyone else, however, I am grateful for another opportunity to learn. Stay strong with me, strive to be a great doctor and follow the Golden Rule.
Remember, one day the patient will be you. OM