The Patient Centred Myth

Sunday Blog 43 – 3rd July 2022

When I first started my Sunday Blog 43 weeks ago – back in the dim distant land of August 2021 before I had taken the radical decision to leave the Health Consumers’ Council – I had on top of my list of “blog topics to write” about the myth of the patient-centred health care system. The blog post idea was number 1 on the list and has languished somewhat in the months that have followed. It was supposed be like an opening volley for my next planned book – a non-fiction book about the health system.

Back in August, the working title for the book was “The West Australian Body Owners Guide to the Health System.” Over the months it has shifted and morphed (many people’s responses to the working title certainly encouraged a re-think) into The Patient Centred Myth.

The quote from today’s blog comes from Episode 8 of The Impatient Podcast, an excellent podcast by cancer patient Nicole Cooper and her brother Sean Crank. They interview Zoologist, Cancer Patient and Doctor (in that order) Ben Bravery. It’s an excellent interview and worth the time to listen – there’s so much in it that I had to keep stopping and transcribing bits.

After Ben Bravery finished his cancer treatment he decided to retrain as a Doctor (he was already a Zoologist) and was planning to become an Oncologist. But his medical training put him off the idea.

I was struck by … the way that Medicine was taught. First of all, it’s archaic, and it’s hostile. And I thought that the focus was on the wrong things … people have this idea that if you focus on the whole person, or the whole patient, and you connect and you understand and you give time to listen and you educate families, and you write down notes that they can understand and you make extra calls when you need to, that you’re going to lose “The Medicine” … That you’re going to lose the anatomy and the chemistry and pharmacology. But you don’t. … It’s not a trade-off. But the bulk of medicine has just focused on the bio medical stuff. … And then they use the excuse that there’s just no time to do the other stuff.

The Impatient Podcast Episode 8 – We’re All People – about the 42 minute mark

Archaic. Hostile. Like our humanity is the enemy in medicine.

Interestingly he has decided to become a Psychiatrist, and I love what he says;

 I don’t have a lived experience in mental illness, I have a lived experience in cancer. But I’ve got lived experience as someone who’s very sick and I see very little difference between the mind and the body. And I’m all about breaking down that stigma, because they are illnesses and they can be treated and they can be understood.

The Impatient Podcast Episode 8 – We’re All People – about the 45 minute mark

So while I am no longer running our state’s patient advocacy non-profit, I am still a consumer representative. Because, as previously noted, it is a vocation, not a job. I am still encountering hostility from time to time in meetings when trying to correct the course of culture and clinical service models back towards being people centred.

I’ve got a lot more to say on this topic. Like a lot. But today’s Sunday blog felt like the right one to strike the first blow on this topic, make a tentative new start on this writing project as I almost near the end of the my shitty millionth draft of my novella.

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1 Comment

  1. I like the original working title ?. Somehow it feels more approachable but I will be super keen to read it in whatever form it takes.

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