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A Doctor Argues That Her Profession Needs to Slow Down, Stat

By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ Apr 13, 2018

Do you often feel that your doctor is rushed when you schedule a visit, and that you are getting a shorter amount of time with the actual provider while waiting for longer periods in order to be seen? According to a recent article in The New York Times, one doctor argues that her profession needs to slow down and pushes for what she calls “slow medicine.” The physician, Dr. Victoria Sweet, wrote a memoir entitled Slow Medicine: The Way to Healing. In the book, she discusses the ways in which slowing down can mean better treatment for patients and lower risk of missed diagnoses and other diagnostic errors. But what exactly did she mean by “slow medicine”?

Defining Slow Medicine?

The term “slow medicine” has different meanings. The article explains: “For some, it means spending more time with patients. For others, it means taking the time to understand evidence so as to avoid overdiagnosis and overtreatment.” For Dr. Sweet, the term, in her words, means “stepping back and seeing the patient in the context of the environment” in order to provide care that is “slow, methodical, and step-by-step.” Sweet suggests that modern medicine has become too commodified and that we need to change the way we approach medical care. According to the Patient Safety Network, diagnostic errors account for around 17 percent of preventable medical errors in the hospital setting.

In Slow Medicine, Sweet discusses some of the ways in which medical colleagues may have missed certain diagnoses potentially due to rushing through appointments. At the same time, Sweet is not suggesting that we need to shift away from modern medicine entirely. Rather, as the article underscores, “Sweet maintains a healthy respect for modern medicine” and recognizes that “dialysis, antibiotics, and intensive care units save lives.” What she is pushing for, however, is a recognition of the limitations in the practice of modern medicine—most immediately the methods doctors use to get from one patient to the next.

How Rushing and Speed in Modern Medicine Can Harm

One clear example Sweet gives to show how the speediness of modern medical practice can harm patients is a narrative about a three-year-old boy named Joey. According to Sweet, Joey experienced a near-drowning incident and afterward was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease. Yet Joey “against the odds makes it off the ventilator and out of the hospital.” In part, Sweet attributes Joey’s recovery to the power of prayer and positive thinking. At the same time, Sweet also credits Joey’s healing in large part to slow medicine, stating, “a lung specialist slowly decreased airway pressure and tidal volume over several weeks in a patient with acute respiratory distress syndrome,” and it was this “slow medicine that allowed that doctor to make the property adjustment.”

To drive home the point about the power of slow medicine, Sweet explains how “Joey would have died today.” She highlights how Joey’s doctors “would have been too busy entering healthcare data……. according to all the mandated protocols.” She emphasizes that, when it comes to proper treatment and patient attention, slower medicine is better medicine.

Contact a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you believe that you or a loved one may have been harmed as a result of a diagnostic error, you should learn more about your options by speaking with an experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer. Contact Cohen, Placitella & Roth for more information.

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