Only physicians can heal the U.S. health care system, says James T. Hansen, MD, in his excellent book, Reinvent the Heal: A Philosophy for the Reform of Medical Practice. Hansen believes the disintegration of U.S. health care is truly at hand. The issues he feels are most closely tied to the system’s decay are twofold: a lack of physician empathy and the excesses of technomedicine — the overuse of high technology.
A gastroenterologist currently practicing in Hawaii, Hansen takes the reader through his own medical training and the decades of teaching and practice that led to his insights into the system’s failures. He begins with anecdotes about working during the Los Angeles Watts riots, seeing patients receive unnecessary testing and treatment, observing physicians’ lack of empathy and quality caregiving — and being exposed to the pressures of the pharmaceutical industry.
Not immune to these issues himself, Hansen eventually experienced an epiphany. A health care provider’s concern opened his eyes to the importance of empathizing with patients. It made all the difference during his own struggle to receive an accurate diagnosis for chronic pain that resulted in hip surgery.
The author believes that it’s technophysicians who have created a gulf between doctors and their patients. The health care system is given life when physicians listen to their patients and openly dialogue with them. That means a refocus on altruism and quality are the first steps to healing the system.
Hansen believes a unified voice of patients and caring physicians can galvanize the health care industry and affect a return to common sense, holistic medicine. Despite a scattering of typographical spacing issues in Reinvent the Heal, Hansen’s lyrical writing and cogent reasoning for reform may help fulfill his hope that the book will “serve as a stimulus” to those ends.
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