May 18, 2022

Ep 6 How Doctoring Used to Be

When I was a kid, I would go on house calls with my Dad, who was an internist in Chicago. We'd literally go into peoples' homes and he would pull the patient aside into a private room and have a visit. I was usually left in the kitchen or living room for that part (but not always), and the other family member(s) would give me snacks and tell me how grateful they were for my Dad. He was brilliant, kind, patient, committed and thoughtful, and really embodied the picture of "the doctor" in those days. He was also the Medical Director of a hospital in Chicago called Grant Hospital for decades. When we walked through the halls, everyone greeted him and some patted him on the back as he walked by, as if would help to just touch him.

Years later, when I was a new attending physician, I never had the opportunity to do house calls, but I tried to embody my Dad's lessons of kindness and patience in my rounds in the hospital and in my clinic visits. I definitely felt respected in my position (ignoring the people who asked "Excuse me Nurse, when will we see the Doctor?"), but I think the mystery surrounding doctors had burned out by then. With the rise of TV, the internet and social media, people seemed to feel like they knew more about doctors and the medical life than they used to. Sometimes patients even seem to think that they know more than their doctors thanks to the internet. 

This episode is important because there are some stories in here about the freedom that doctors used to have over their lives and practices that has really gone out the window for most of us. Sure, docs who own their own practices are somewhat free to make decisions about which patients they want to see, for how long, and in what way. Though, many private practices are geared towards profit in the same way that big hospitals are, and with rising medical equipment costs and unavailability due to Covid-19 that will ultimately mean that they'll have to see more patients to balance the books.