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Bitter medicine

The overwhelming pills and bottles that can be part of today's lifestyle. Emphasis on the pills in the foreground.  

“The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”

In the bygone days, there was always the friendly neighbourhood doctor to turn to, who would be the family physician for a generation or two. A friend first, he knew the entire family history and the allergies that afflicted its members. He tracked their symptoms and the habits of the members. He was a trusted aide who understood the root cause and diagnosed for a 360-degree view. A concoction inside his office, essentially a coloured liquid, and some packets of a white powder were offered for a paltry sum, but provided relief. Time and again, the doctor would draw from his vast knowledge and offer prognosis to the head of the family.

By by the the mid-1980s, such doctors just vanished. In today’s world, doctors are super-specialists, and finding a neighbourhood physician to treat simple ailments is a struggle. The patient is rushed to the nearby swanky hospital. The doctor spends a quick two minutes per patient — listens to the problem, dives into his knowledge reservoir, and writes a prescription. In his indecipherable handwriting, he hands over the prescription which sends the patient into a labyrinth of diagnostic tests and pin pricks. Meanwhile, he welcomes the next patient. Whoosh, the first patient is back on the road with a blank stare as if he had witnessed a deluge of incantations in a magic show.

With an expectation for a total cure, the patient re-enters the doctor’s office with a file folder as large as a shopping bag with a surfeit of medical reports and bills. Doctor has happily noticed his own prescription in the patient’s hand and settles down to enquire about his ailment. Once the formalities are done, the patient is driven to a crossroads — continue the treatment or go for a further diagnosis. That is when it dawns on him to obtain a second opinion and right there is his choice to pick the right card from the magician’s deck of cards.

The patient then grapples with a million-dollar question of purchasing the “prescription” or “generic” medicine; branded ones don’t come cheap. When the patient starts the course, there is the onset of unexplained “side effects”. The family tries to manage thm. The rush now is to revisit the doctor. Lo and behold, another doctor appears from behind the screen with the magic wand aka stethoscope.

If the doctors of the good old days listened to and empathised with the patients, today’s “smarter” digital tools can enhance the “personalised” profile of patients who but remain confused.

p_harihar@hotmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 12:58:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/bitter-medicine/article33948219.ece

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