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Doctors may need to be more aware of patient's lives outside chronic illness

Thirteen Of Clubs
via Flickr

Living with a chronic disease can feel overwhelming when trying to keep up with treatment. However, some aspects could be improved simply by creating better communication between a patient and their doctor.

This week on “Take Care,” Dr. Victor Montoritalks about his new approach to the doctor-patient relationship,which he calls minimally disruptive medicine. Montori is a part of the knowledge and evaluation research unit at the Mayo Clinic and is the director of community engagement and late stage translational research for the Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

Minimally disruptive medicinefocuses on ways to empower patients through communication with their doctor. Montori says doctors can sometimes forget that patients have lives outside of caring for their chronic illness. This can often stem from doctors not living in the same communities as their patients, and not understanding how they live, says Montori.

“Our job is to make sure that taking care of their health becomes something … that can be implemented in their daily lives, so there will be enough energy, attention, and time for them to pursue their life’s hopes and dreams. We’ve missed that, and I think we need to bring that into the way we take care of patients,” Montori said.

Montori believes that doctors and patients want to achieve the same goal of improving a patient’s health, but the process of how the goal is achieved is where views can differ and communication can falter. An example Montori gives is if a lab test come back with bad results, a doctor may want to increase treatment, but it may not fit into the patient’s schedule.

When this happens, it can create almost a principal-student relationship between a doctor and a patient. The patient may feel like they are being scolded for not complying with how the doctor wants them to take care of their health, says Montori.

“Those types of interactions tend to drive patients away from the care that they need, contributing to an epidemic of burnout among clinicians, who find themselves unable to make a difference in the lives of patients,” Montori said. “We need a new relationship — a new way of setting up a relationship as a partnership.”

This partnership would involve patients and clinicians contributing to each other’s care responsibilities—the clinician cares for the patient and the patient cares for himself or herself, according to Montori. Once responsibilities are in line, it can lead to a better understanding of what the goal is and how the patient and doctor can work together to achieve it, says Montori.

Although making health care and life work together in harmony is something doctors need to be aware of, Montori also acknowledges that some effort may have to be put in on the patient’s end as well. This could be something as simple as organizing daily tasks around time for treatment.

“The health care system in conjunction with the community has to help patients achieve that goal of adapting, self-managing, and thriving,” Montori said.