Caring Doctors

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By: Robert F. Geimer

We’ve talked about dangerous doctors.  Now let’s focus on the good ones – doctors who take the time to care for their patients.  I’ve long said that the #1 thing you can do for your health is find a primary care doctor you like and get along with, and then see that doctor every year no matter what.  In fact, the best time to see your doctor is on a scheduled visit when you are feeling well.  Your doctor can talk with you, do a comprehensive physical exam, order appropriate testing, and follow-up as necessary.  Over time, your doctor will compile a comprehensive set of baseline data that will be useful if and when medical issues develop.  Most importantly, your doctor will know you and your medical history and, hopefully, be your advocate.

Does a caring doctor matter?

In a study in the British Medical Journal, patients with irritable bowel syndrome were given one of three treatments:  1) no treatment; 2) a placebo in the form of a fake acupuncture treatment; and 3) the same fake acupuncture except administered by a caring and empathetic practitioner who spent time with the patient.  The results?  28% of group 1 reported relief; 44% of group 2 reported relief; and a whopping 62% of group 3 reported relief.  The authors concluded that factors such as warmth, empathy and time spent with the patient might actually affect clinical outcome.  This study reinforces something we have long suspected - that sometimes the best medicine is a caring doctor.

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