Friday, November 01, 2013

Why physicians should not be providing wellness advice

The buzz word in healthcare today is wellness . Everyone agrees that chronic illnesses are going to become a major problem in the future; and that because a lot of these are a result of faulty lifestyle choices , physicians should start counseling patients about the right lifestyle options , so that they can promote health and stop their patients from falling ill . It seems quite logical that physicians should be prescribing wellness rather than only focusing on treating illness. After all, the doctor’s word carries a lot of clout – and prevention is better than
cure .

Actually, this is shortsighted advise for many reasons . For one, while patients are happy to listen to what a doctor has to say when they are ill, they are equally happy to ignore his well-meaning advise when they are well ! When patients go to a doctor with a medical problem , the last thing they want to listen to is wellness homilies -  they just want the doctor to fix their problem for them . The reality is that when you are ill, you occupy a completely different universe , and what you need is relief of your symptoms quickly from your doctor, rather than a lecture about what you can do to improve your lifestyle This will just fall on deaf ears.

Also, physicians are not good at giving wellness advice. This is not something which they're interested in – and because it’s pretty boring and repetitive , they don’t like doing it. Most doctors are hardly models of wellness themselves because many of them are obese themselves. It's hard to accept advice from someone who doesn't follow it themselves !

Providing this generic wellness advice is a major waste of the physician’s precious time which could be deployed gainfully for doing other things which are far more important . If physicians are forced to do something they don't like doing , they usually do a bad job of it. Most of them are not well-informed about wellness issues such as diet and stress management, because this is not part of their medical training , which focuses primarily on diseases and pathology - and on what can go wrong and how to fix it , rather than on wellness . In fact, most physicians will not be able to recognize a well person because they really don't see any healthy people at all ! Physicians are just not well-equipped to provide wellness advice .

Since physicians don't like giving wellness advice and patient's don't like listening to this advice from their physician when they are ill, the moral of the story is that physicians should use their skills in order to focus on helping ill patients get better ; and that wellness advice should be provided by a different group of professionals . These wellness professionals are likely to a much better job than physicians , because they are very focused on doing just one thing and will therefore be able to do it very well.  This is also a much more cost-effective way of providing wellness advice , because these professional would be a much less expensive resource than doctors !

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