What has been your experience with going to the doctor? Have you had to wait? Have you felt flustered when he finally got to you because he seemed so rushed? Have you felt confused by his medical lingo, overwhelmed by all the tests and then perplexed by the array of pills you had to take, all the while fighting niggling fears: does he really know what’s going on; does he care? If any or all of these things have been your experience, Dr. Terrie Wurzbacher’s book, Your Doctor Said WHAT? - Exposing the Communication Gap will resonate with you.
Within the sixteen chapters of this book physician cum patient Wurzbacher names and explores challenges faced by patients and their doctors in the present-day overburdened U.S. health system (many of which are undoubtedly present in health systems within developed countries around the world – certainly Canada).
She starts out by contrasting fatherly Marcus Welby, TV doctor figure of the past, with the modern doctor who is perpetually in a hurry, without the time or patience to listen to the ill person’s side of the story, fixated on doing tests and prescribing pills, and demanding the patient’s compliance even though he has often not taken the time to explain what’s wrong and what the tests and pills are meant to accomplish.
Some additional issues Wurzbacher tackles are the unrealistic expectations both doctors and patients have of each other, the lack of respect and empathy doctors appear to have toward patients, the difficulty for patients already in pain and distress to deal with a complicated and slow-moving system, and the variety of other places patients can go for medical help and advice – from the internet to alternative medicine providers.
Wurzbacher does a good job of talking about the problem. Besides over 30 years’ experience as a physician, she has also been a patient and it’s as an advocate for patients she is most effective. In fact, chapters 1-13 are written almost solely from the patient’s point of view. Her description of what it’s like to be a patient will reassure fellow sufferers that they are not alone.
However, to make the book jacket’s pronouncement come true: “This controversial book should be … in each doctor’s office,” it will also need to be read and endorsed by physicians. Though Wurzbacher’s tone through much of the book seems designed to irritate fellow physicians, her polemic does finally become more balanced when she gets to Chapter 14, “In the Doctor’s Defense,” where she gives reasons why doctors often act as they do.