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My Mission

Helping Others through the Synergy of Science and Caring
How this blog supports my mission


« If All Doctors Had Time to Listen | Main | Building Castles »

June 08, 2009


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Jane Brody should be commended on introducting the issue of TIME into the health care equation, even thought the proposed solution, that is to learn to be compassionate in 10 seconds or less, like the concept of "quality time", leaves something to be desired. For example, most people don't realize that electronic medical records, even as they have certain benefits, actually take much longer to fill out then a simple chart note, so that doctors and nurses in hospitals and offices nowadays spend more time on the computer than with their patients.
Having said that, certain technologies, such as email, can help. Its easier and more efficient to communicate by email then by phone or having to come into the office. The problem, however, is that ordinary email is not secure or HIPAA compliant, and that most doctors need to see patients to cover office expenses, so that they don't have time to provide free services. A novel solution is provided by online services such as, that is HIPAA compliant, and allows the physician to charge for their online services. That way patients can access their physician at their convenience, and the physician can be reimbursed for their time.

Felicity Lenes

Congratulations, Dr. Harpham -- I read the column this morning and am reading the book! Thank you for the gift you are giving to not only the current generation of physicians, but also those of us who are entering or in the midst of our training.


If "mutual understanding is the first step toward healing physician-patient bonds," what is the second step?


I'm looking forward to reading your new book; I'm always looking for inspiration and curiously hoping that some of what you describe I'll have found myself doing instinctively over my years in practice. I can always work on getting better however. Thanks.

Wendy S. Harpham, M.D.

Dear B,
Once a physician and a patient understand a particular problem from the other's point of view , the second step depends on where the individual physician-patient bond is right now.

For example, if the patient understands why the physician requests an annoying (for patient) part of the office routine be done a certain way (for example, the patient does not like coming in a day before the doctor visit to get bloodwork done), even if nothing else changes the patient may no longer be annoyed by it.

Or the physician and patient may need to discuss a compromise that works for both sides.

Or, if after discussing the problem, serious discord persists, the patient will now have to decide if the problem is big enough to switch physicians.

This is simplified, of course. Human relationships are complex. My hope is that the book will help people talk about the challenges in healing ways. My hope is that it will foster mutual understanding, trust, hope and commitment, and thus foster healing physician-patient bonds.

With hope, Wendy

Kairol Rosenthal

Kvetching about how docs treat patients gets us nowhere. In my writings about the young adult cancer community, I have been focusing a lot lately on how patients can move beyond complaining about the time crunch and can instead learn how to be most effective with the little face-to-face time we have.

One of my top recommendations is that patients type our questions into a prioritized list and hand them to the doc at the beginning of the appointment. This allows them to see easily where our concerns lay, quickly respond to the less relevant ones, and dive more rapidly into the heart of the matter.

Wendy, I look forward to reviewing your book on my blog and having you on The Stupid Cancer Show.



Thank you, Wendy!!

Wendy S. Harpham, M.D.

Excellent suggestions for patients, Kairol. With hope, Wendy

Ronni Gordon

Congratulations on being quoted in the Times. I can see why Jane Brody singled out the book. Your "pearls of wisdom" are always very helpful. Keep up the good work!

Dina Shahrokhi

Dr. Harpham I just subscribed to your blog and have been reading some of your articles and just wanted to say thank you for providing such a great support group and interesting information and insight! Even if I am not yet directly affected by some of the stories I still support and applaud the support you are providing!

The issue of this is certainly one I have though about before, and it is so good to see someone try to take the time to ensure that physicians don't feel like another number (or another paycheck). Thanks again Dr. Harpham!

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