Medical advancements and life-improving/lifesaving tools have rapidly evolved in recent decades, but trust in
healthcare has been declining in tandem and has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. Medicine and healthcare
science have be-come so complex that many have lost the big picture when it comes to individual health. The tools and skills required to effectively communicate science and medicine are lacking, especially when medical complexity is rising while time and individuals’ attention are at a premium.
This is compounded by an opaque, exceptionally complex system that often leaves patients lost or with their needs unaddressed. Most people, even those who are highly educated, have relatively low health literacy and a limited understanding of what physicians do.
Studies have shown that an individual’s healthcare professional, such as a rheumatologist one sees regularly for lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, is perhaps the most trusted messenger of health information and health decisions. A rheumatologist taking the time to get to know their patient and see them as an individual can have a tremendous impact on the patient’s trust in the physician and the information the physician provides. However, this takes time and will not happen all at once. Taking a moment to ask about an individual’s family or how things are at work
can have a tremendous impact, showing a patient that their physician cares and sees them as an individual.
To help the public better understand what we do and the rigorous journey to becoming a physician, we need to be
better communicators. We must not only communicate what we do, but why we do it! We didn’t go into medicine
to get rich. Our patients and the public need to better understand the sacrifices we made, and the academic process we went through and continue to go through, to ensure we are equipped to counsel and educate. Simply repeating the latest sound bite won’t cut it.
We have work to do. All physicians need to lean in and spend a few extra moments with each patient, providing some insight into how medicine works and the central role that physicians play in improving the health of our patients, community, and nation.