1. In your bestselling book The Night Shift you give a window into how it can be to work in the E.R in a major city. Why do you think there is such a big interest from the public to understand what goes on behind the curtains so to say?
This year, as many as 40% of people in the United States will visit an Emergency Room seeking medical care. When they visit, they will be thrust into a world they do not understand. Some will enter that world while suffering from intolerable pain. Some will be worried sick about a loved one, Others will be at or near the end of life. There is an insatiable curiosity for what goes on behind the sliding hospital doors. We want to know why we wait in the ER to see the doctor. We want to know what's wrong with us and what our chances are of getting better. We want to know how doctors, nurses and other health care providers think so that we have a better understanding of what's happening to ourselves and our loved ones.
2. Why did you write The Night Shift?
I wrote The Night Shift to give readers an accurate portrayal of what goes on behind the curtain at a busy urban ER in North America. I chose to write about working at night because of the fascinating people who inhabit the ER when the world sleeps. I like the idea of making a difference during a time of day when the hospital runs with a skeleton crew and when everything from angioplasty to an MRI is that much more difficult to arrange. I also wrote about what it's like to battle sleep deprivation and fatigue.
3. You mention in The Secret Language of Doctors how rounds are often done in “the bunker” without the curious ears of patients present. Does digital health tools and more data increase the tendency to bunker up or is it re-building the patient-doctor relation?
Great question! I believe that modern medicine lost its empathy mojo some time ago. People on my side of the hospital sliding doors find it difficult to see things from the patient's point of view. The bunker is a metaphor for 'us' and 'them'. The way to bring back empathy is through engaging patients and their families. The new mantra for patients should be this: "Nothing about us without us." The most effective way to accomplish that is to make patients more health literate and thus more able to monitor and to take care of their own health. And the best way to accomplish that is through apps that give patients the ability to monitor themselves and in so doing acquire the data needed to diagnose and treat what ails them.
4. Do you think digital health makes work harder or easier for doctors today?
In the short run, digital health makes things harder for doctors. They will have to answer more and better questions from patients armed with the tools to monitor their own health. In the long run, having patients who ask better questions and who take better care of themselves will make the work of doctors easier yet much more satisfying.
5. Do you see that the internet and digital health tools have changed the dynamics and expectations between healthcare professionals and patients?
The internet and digital health tools are putting patients and doctors on a much more level playing field. It means that doctors have to stay on their toes to provide the most up to date answers to increasingly good questions from patients. I also think it means that more is expected of patients. No longer can they be passive about their health - as their parents and grandparents were. I believe that health literacy is a critical life skill for young people. And it's never too late for older patients to follow the same advice