I’d like to put an idea on the table: The care of complex health issues is difficult and can be frustrating for both the patient and the healthcare provider.
Saying this is important! The frustration exists on both sides. You feel it as the patient. We feel it as the providers. But neither of us is saying it. Why? It’s almost like we’re not supposed to acknowledge that this isn’t easy.
But here’s the truth – it isn’t easy.
There are so many challenges that stand in the way of our success. Providers are forced to work within the constructs of a healthcare system that they did not create, and most likely struggle against. Providers come into this profession on a mission to help others heal, yet the system requires them to do this in fifteen minutes or less ̶ including the time required to document the entire encounter, jump through the regulatory hoops and click their way through a clunky electronic medical record (EMR) that is both poorly structured and dysfunctional. Now repeat that again, and again, and again – hour after hour, day after day. And if providers don’t comply with these rigid rules, they will be punished with upset patients, a failing business, and an invasion of the time set aside for them and their family.
Make no mistake, providers desperately want to help the patient feel better. But the system never bends, never relents. It is omnipresent, dominant, and exhaustive.
On the flip side, there is no doubt that the patient desperately wants to feel better. But the patient is dependent on others for this to happen. Naturally, if the problem could have been fixed without another’s help, that would have been done already. A patient does not appear in a provider’s office without a need for some assistance.
Unfortunately, the patient with complex health issues often experiences disappointment. The provider doesn’t listen, doesn’t explain, doesn’t take the time necessary to facilitate healing. The patient has a lot to say, but the provider doesn’t hear it. So, the patient feels poorly understood, and the plan of care is often formulaic, superficial, impersonal and cold. Unfulfilled expectations translate into disappointments. Disappointments play like a bad song on repeat; patient frustration escalates with each encounter, and they eventually end up jaded and feeling like the providers, all of them, don’t care about their health.
The points of frustration are understandable on both sides. They are a matter of perspective. But if we take everything that frustrates us about these interactions, bundle it up, and place it to the side for a moment, you will discover an important fact that’s crystal clear. We share the same goal. The patient desperately wants to feel better. The provider desperately wants to help them feel better.
Let’s start there. If we share the same goal, then it makes sense that we can work together in pursuit of that goal. We can unite as a team and build a relationship… our provider-patient relationship. This is our glimmer of hope, our light piercing the darkness. We have each other.
I learned this from my mentor, Dr. Douglas Drossman. You know him as the author of this book, but ten years ago I knew him as my attending physician, teaching me the secrets of healing those with complex medical problems. Today, you may know me as a New York Times-bestselling author and public advocate for digestive health and wellness. But what most don’t realize is how much of my approach to medicine was formed from those experiences working directly with Dr. Drossman and witnessing how he was able to heal the most complex health issues by first nurturing the provider-patient relationship, using it as a collaborative platform for healing, and following through with a logical, systematic approach.
If both provider and patient are willing to make that commitment to invest in this relationship, to support one another through adversity and do what is necessary to accomplish our goal, we are unstoppable. The system, the restrictions and challenges, and the unfulfilled expectations don’t just disappear. But the strength that forms in the collaborative relationship can persevere and overcome these challenges.
In Gut Feelings: The Patient’s Story we explore the authentic experiences of real patients who suffered with complex health issues and were trying to find help within the healthcare system. In fact, one of the patients highlighted in this book was a patient of mine, and I am so proud of her for sharing her story and inspiring others.
With each patient story, we examine the experience through the lens of both provider and patient. Dr. Drossman shares his impressions and insights from the physician’s perspective, while Ms. Johannah Ruddy enriches our understanding of the patient perspective using her own experiences and her skills as a patient advocate.
In these stories lie an overarching message of hope. Solutions do exist! Healing is possible! But what you will discover, time and again, is that the first step toward healing is the creation of a healthy provider-patient relationship. This is the platform that allows us to ultimately discover and implement those healing solutions.
Thank you for taking the time to read this excellent book. I hope it brings you more health and happiness in your journey.
Will Bulsiewicz MD MSCI
New York Times bestselling author of Fiber Fueled