The practice of Medicine is indeed humbling, as its Science slowly unfolds and corrects itself over the years. It is therefore imperative for doctors to continually update themselves on the shifting trends and developments, particularly in their respective fields
BY RAUL L. LAPITAN, MD
Governor, American College of Cardiology Philippine Chapter
Immediate Past President of the Philippine Heart Association
The Continuing Medical Education (CME) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) point acquisition system was established through Republic Act 2382 – mandating that is “the obligation of every physician….to maintain, update and improve the scientific knowledge, technical skill, competence…thereby upgrading profession, with the purpose of better health care delivery to our people.”
This rationale makes medical practice a work in progress as much medicine’s different disciplines a life-long course. As agents and channels of health, doctors, hospitals, and related industries are most of all, expected to be updated and be in the lead, no matter the circumstances.
The turn of the new millennium has seen modern marvels in medicine – drug and cure breakthroughs that were made easier and accessible thru advances in technology. The list just keeps on growing. As doctors, we have loved to embrace multi-roles and tasks despite our frenzied pace. We are fixtures in CME activities — as attendees and/or lecturers in conferences, round-table discussions, and landmark trials
These seemingly seamless CME activities and technical revolutions are both a boon and a bane to an extent.
The influx of a litany of choicesin terms of prescription drugs and treatment modalities leaves most doctors lost at a crossroads of whats and what-nots. Being a regular in local and foreign scientific meetings is tantamount to missing clinic hours and family bonding moments. As doctors having been trained to perform diverse roles, time management is the key through it all. Judgment call prevails.
The market is flooded with alternative medicines and procedures that are being heavily pitched and hyped via multimedia.
There are varying scales of discussion on the relevance – or antithetical role – of alternative medicine. Various markets are now shifting towards all-natural, plant based health maintenance products like juices, pills, and the like. The trade and number of patrons have become so prolific that more and more patients are now shunning conventional medical treatment in place of traditional healing products.
While there is an abundance of studies both condemning and approving the practice, doctors are not that powerful enough in denying this liberty from their patients without a definite reason. They can go as far as reminding their patients — that they can take supplements in addition (the synonyms for supplement are extra and addon) to the maintenance medicines prescribed by their specialty doctor. But this entails extra expenses that will definitely lacerate their pockets. Alternative “drugs” that come in many forms and procedures are not backed up by evidence-based medicine research and guidelines.
Various cases are always understandable, especially in the Philippine setting, where doctors are perpetually reminded of the economic status of their patients. The current trend in advanced machinery and diagnoses warrant a hefty bill from patients at just the initial test – upsetting patients’ health and hindering doctors’ recovery initiatives.
Like with any other client-care business, there are difficult cases and patients. While doctors are always ready to lay out a complete treatment plan, patients are not always up for the task. There are the obedient and noncompliant patients. And let us not forget the family and relatives (especially the ones footing the bill) with the know-it-all and condescending attitude that put the doctors’ patience to a test. The patient is indecisive when he or she is financially dependent on a family member.
Another problem comes in the form of shifting attitudes among laypersons. While financially-challenged patients is a general issue, there are two other classifications: patients who get ahead of their condition and their doctors through their internet skills where they could auto-diagnose themselves and demand certain tests and treatments informed by Google; and, those who opt to be ignorant before or after test results for fear of the worst-case scenario.
The former is now consistently seen among modern or young Filipinos while the latter is still manifested by the older reserved population. Doctors now become more anxious about their role in patients’ lives and are discouraged to sympathize – impacting quality health care.
But one thing does not and will never change: Empowerment.
Even with people endowed with the capability to exploit the phenomena of information technology and in control of their own health, the fact remains that a huge chunk still insists on seeing a human doctor.
Establishing connections would, most of all, help patients without the means of getting treatment gain hope on another course of action. Doctors are every family’s health allies.