Medicine saves lives. Yet often, the common perception of “life saving” care involves an emergency cardiac surgery or removing a malignant tumor. Yet Atul Gawande, MD, MPH makes the case that long-term, patient-centered primary care is just as important in an article published in this week’s issue of The New Yorker.
In his essay, Dr. Gawande tells the stories of numerous patients and their relationships with their physicians. He reveals how people who see the same provider over the course of months and years allow physicians deeper insight into their health, which leads to care based not solely on the disease, but on the individual. Also, people who are comfortable with their physicians are often more willing to seek medical attention for potential problems earlier than they would otherwise.
Dr. Gawande further argues for restructuring the health care industry, emphasizing lifelong incremental care over so-called “rescue medicine.” In doing so, many conditions that would require emergency treatment could be avoided altogether. He writes:
We have a certain heroic expectation of how medicine works … But the model wasn’t quite right. If an illness is a fire, many of them require months or years to extinguish, or can be reduced only to a low-level smolder. The treatments may have side effects and complications that require yet more attention. Chronic illness has become commonplace, and we have been poorly prepared to deal with it. Much of what ails us requires a more patient kind of skill.