Danielle Ofri

Danielle Ofri writes in her blog about the declining opportunities for doctors to conduct physical exams (largely due to the computer that takes the doctor’s attention away from the patient during consultations) in the New York Times Health Update (at nytdirect@nytimes.com on 07/15/14).  Ofri notes how once the machines are out of the way, and perhaps the patient is on the examination table wearing something comfy, how the whole dynamic changes and the doctor is freer to listen and the patient may be willing to disclose more.

Ofri writes about the importance of the patient’s story in diagnosis–for example, the importance of the revelation, “I have these bumps beneath my arm.”   If the doctor listens carefully, the patient may reveal what’s wrong without having to order expensive tests.  Or at least limit the ordering of expensive tests.

Any dialogue beats what I can come up with on my own, usually.  The excitement for me is that I know my understanding of what might be possible and my willingness to try new things set the limits on the treatment (or life choices) to try and their possible outcomes. A great way to prepare for a doctor visit might be for me to write or record my story and to listen to it before I talk with her or him, to try to see where I think the possibilities end, or begin, for me (as the doctor, if s/he listens carefully, will also be able to discern).

“It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.” —Hippocrates

(Danielle Ofri is an associate professor of medicine at New York University and Bellevue Hospital. She is the editor of the Bellevue Literary Review and the author of What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine.”)