TEDMED: Treating People Not Patients
Apr 22, 2013 8:00 PM
Bringing together people who want to meet each other, learn from each other, share some great ideas.That’s the idea of the TedMed meeting last week. The program brings together an eclectic mix of people, a heavy dose of artists—stimulating the right side of the brain—and many thought leaders in both medicine and health.
America Bracho, director of a community advocacy group, Latino Health Access, delivered an impassioned presentation about the importance of engaging the community to improve the health of their kids and families. She challenged the framework that she believes we in health care have constructed: Physicians and health care providers as the people with talent and expertise, and patients as the people with needs—not necessarily talent or expertise.
America tells the story of a patient, Irma, who is characterized at the outset as the “non-compliant diabetic.” From the vantage point of her physician—who urges her to eat fewer tortillas—Irma is a patient who is unable to manage her diabetes. In delving into the story, we discover this woman has no greater desire than to improve her own health and, even more importantly, dreams of a better future for her kids. America describes Irma’s transformation, starting by separating her identity as a diabetic from someone who manages her diabetes. She learns practical approaches to dealing with her diabetes from other individuals in the community. She starts an exercise moms’ program in the local schools. Irma’s story culminates in the success of her community—with administrative and technical expertise from the Latina Health Access—to build one of the first parks and community centers for children in the neighborhood.
America’s take home message? Remember that patients are people.
While physicians have valuable expertise, their true value is not in thinking for others. Their value is to recognize the power each individual has to change their own lives by overcoming the constraints of their environments. Physicians are trained to believe that they think for people. Patients are viewed as passive, or ignorant. Not to be dismissed simply as “noncompliant”, Irma is a human being living in complex, challenged environment.
It’s our role as health care providers to empower our patients and to respect and expect every individual’s responsibility for health. This has to be part of the health care crisis solution.