All In The Family
Neuwirth stresses the importance of involving family members in the healthcare process, particularly when the patient is ill.
"When a family is involved in a patient's care, you have people who see what is going on, and that changes the relationship in a very positive way because the physician sees himself in a different way, as a part of a group," he says. "And besides, you can't do it all yourself. The family can take notes, ask questions, look up things."
In the end, Neuwirth says, the ability for patients and doctors to improve their relationship depends on whether the society as a whole values personalized healthcare.
"If we as a society think this is important, we should create the situation that makes this possible," he says. "Telling doctors they should be relating to patients when they have to see a patient every seven minutes is impossible. It's worse, it is dehumanizing. If clinicians are suffering and stressed and frustrated, there is no way they can deliver quality medical care and no way to deliver the care on which the doctor-patient relationship is centered.
"If you are angry and scared and overwhelmed and burned out, how can you offer caring and kindness and compassion and anything that resembles healing to another human being," Neuwirth asks. "So the question becomes, 'Is that what society really wants from its doctors -- or do we just want technicians, and to go elsewhere for real care?' If we don't just want technicians, but also people who are able to be healers, we have to tend to that."