Medicine, Storytelling and Art of Listening: Listener Physicians in Need

Medicine, Storytelling and Art of Listening: Listener Physicians in Need

In the new healthcare arena of change and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare the mantra is : Evidence Based Medicine. We are hammered with this in scientific meetings, hospital staff meetings; med students are bombarded with this term from day one, our obsession and neuroticism with these key words are boundless! It has even permeated in the lay presses and has been popularized in mass media.

CheckboardToday’s New York Times had an eye-opening article on this issue:

Are we forgetting the long tradition of medicine, the basics of medicine in our pursuit of science and cost containment? Or are we finding it easier to depend on technologies and elaborate number studies than undertaking the hard work of exploration of one patient at a time, one mind at a time or in my case, one gut at a time? I have always found it to be more rewarding and satisfying to sit down with the patient and listening to their stories to be the most valuable tool than anything else in my disposal.

I do not think the relationship especially the human dimension of relationship forms unless the physician is a good listener and is an artist of elucidation of the storytelling of the patient. Every patient, every human being has a story to tell and as physician it is our job to be a curious listener and investigator of this basic form of human expression. When this, combined with touching and feeling of the patient’s body itself in the process what we call “physical examination” occurs, it creates the perfect ambiance of a meaningful diagnosis and treatment plan.

I am not adverse to using technology when needed, the powerful technological advances of CAT scanners, MRI machines and myriad of laboratory and molecular techniques have their own places, but all of these should be subservient to the actual role of physician-patient human exploration. As technology becomes more sophisticated and as our atavistic feelings of humanity and basic instincts gets crowded out in the cacophony and awe of technological advances, the need for a “Listener Physician” will be more critical. They are already in short supply; they will be rare commodities in the future to come.

So, as physicians, let us try to be that elusive Listener Physicians. Dear patients, please help us in becoming that Listener Physician that you always want us to be. Together, let us bring back the art of medicine, let us form the bond of humanity, not the bondage of technology.

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