Making health a personal priority

Published on Thursday, 20 July 2017 18:08 - Written by

JANET HURLEY, Health Wise

One of the barriers I face in my current practice is the perspective from some patients that their health is not a priority. The erosion of this sense of personal responsibility for one’s health has not been a good thing.

I have many patients that take good care of themselves and come to the doctor at appropriate times for care. But I also have many others that do not take care of themselves and do not want to come to the doctor. What was once seen as an esteemed interaction is now seen by some as unwanted, costly and inconvenient. While there are certainly legitimate reasons why a patient cannot visit a physician, sometimes the real problem is the patient has only a casual concern for their health – and that can be a dangerous attitude.

In my practice, we often have patients call and request care for a problem over the phone. Sometimes it is appropriate for clinics to provide care over the phone, and other times it is not. In those cases, the clinic deems a face-to-face office visit necessary to provide safe, effective care, and most patients are happy to comply. But some patients are unhappy about the decision and react poorly. For example, a patient may be offended that a physician will not immediately prescribe a medication – but the physician believed this medication might be unsafe without an office visit.

I have some patients in my practice with very good insurance coverage – an advantage not all patients share. Yet, they tell me that it is inconvenient to come to the doctor. Their lives are busy, and they don’t want to miss work or have their kids miss school. Health care providers understand that it can be hard to prioritize these competing responsibilities and that not every patient can simply rearrange their schedules with ease. However, some patients simply do not wish to be bothered. Our health is one of our most valued possessions, and having personal health play second fiddle to a packed calendar can be a disturbing disruption of priorities.

The health care system is changing, looking for new ways to provide more innovative care solutions to assist patients in dealing with their transportation, work schedules and financial challenges. Yet health care systems can only go so far. Despite barriers that may exist, the health of the patient remains the priority of the physician. Patients cannot expect their medical team to manage their care over the phone, time after time, without unsafely lowering the standard of treatment.

No amount of government regulation, community involvement or health system intervention can overcome every health barrier if a patient chooses not to take personal responsibility for their health care. Regardless of specialty or severity, what most improves a doctor’s ability to provide good care is having that patient engaged and motivated about maintaining and achieving a good state of health. It is my hope that anyone reading this will choose to make their health a priority.