My ears perked up on a recent morning as I listened to NPR Marketplace. There was a short blurb about Starbucks baristas being better able to explain to a customer the problem with their coffee than a physician is at explaining to patients the nature of their problems.
For the most part (with few exceptions) baristas — however Starbucks may choose to educate them — throw away their bad beverage results. We have no such luxury. Our patients come to us, not with a menu of problems, but with problems in place, including their culture, language, bad habits, poor maintenance, education and social ills. For the most part they expect US to fix THEM — not their drink. Although there is a move to transfer some responsibility to the patients, I see it as a slowly evolving process.
When our patients have a less than 30% real literacy rate, we need to ask them more than “regular or decaf?” When they come with uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes, more than “which flavor pleases you?” Overall, I resented the tone of the piece. We put in, as my son oft says, “years of evil medical school,” followed by years of re-learning re-educating, re-training, mentoring and being mentored, and still we have “doubt.” I doubt that the barsita education prepares them for more than pulling the handle and “thank you.”
Administrators have long taken the tack that we, the providers (how I HATE that word), are units which can conform to the classic marketplace systems. AIDET: Acknowledge Introduce Duration Explanation ThankYou. We are constantly pressed to do more with fewer hours, see more patients, provide more services, educate the patients more thoroughly with an increasingly clipped time to push more units through the system.
I do hope we don’t come to classifying our patients as Grande/Venti/Trenta. It’s a sad commentary on the status of medicine when we compete with baristas.
Dr. Buchbinder is a board-certified Podiatrist practicing within an FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center) in Hartford, CT. He is director of the FreeMED Software Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to making accessible and extensible medical records available worldwide. Dr. Buchbinder also blogs at A view from the provinces: A new Yankee’s view of the world.