Thoughts on Orthopaedics and Medicine by Chris Peer, MS, MD
In Medical School we’ve all been taught that the word “Doctor” comes from the Latin word meaning “To Teach”.
My medical school curriculum included no classes on patient education. At any rate, I think that many of my most satisfied patients are those who gain the greatest understanding of their orthopaedic problem through education. I use models and charts and pictures. I have clinical research articles and their summaries laminated and use them as teaching tools when appropriate. Especially the “Orthopaedic Risks of Smokers”.
It turns out, to no one’s surprise, that there is an abundance of information about orthopaedic conditions and their surgical treatment available on the internet. Some of it is extremely helpful. I am a huge fan of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery’s website called “Ortho Info” (www.orthoinfo.org). It is accurate, rational and I think pretty well balanced. The internet also harbors some information that could easily be deemed “garbage”. It is a fact of medicine that some patients don’t do as well as we would like. Those patients are disproportionately represented in your Google search. But, just as an anthropologist can learn a lot about you from your garbage, we can all learn a lot from the Google search garbage. (More about the so-called internet “garbage” later.)
I recently saw two patients with similar but slightly different problems. I was relatively in favor of one treatment over another for both patients and told them why. I gave them a suggestion along the lines of “I’m 60-40 in favor of Treatment A over Treatment B
They both asked questions about the options and I did my best to explain the thought process. One chose Treatment A and the other chose Treatment B. Education includes respecting a patients right to make their own informed decision. Often, I think that one of the important parts of my care includes providing enough information that a patient will come to the natural conclusion that is best for them, not necessarily what I think is best for them.
There’s a window into the Art of Medicine.
Thanks for Reading.
Christopher Peer, MS, MD