The concept of Minimally Disruptive Medicine in practice attempts to understand the patient’s balance of their workload of life and their care and the capacity they have to take on that workload. Admittedly, this is a concept many of us as clinicians suspected we understood for our patients, but when we begin to scratch the surface, we truly lack an understanding. We also often feel inhibited to seek understanding of these issues and support true shared decision making when constrained by our settings that are more influenced by government and insurance-based quality metrics. And even when we take the time to understand, we are further constrained by insufficient institutional frameworks to support patients as we seek to help them gain capacity when factors feel “out of our control” (i.e., financial difficulties to afford care or healthy food, deep-seeded loneliness for patients isolated by their conditions, and complex home environments).
When we think of engaging patients in healthcare, when excessive burden exists and a lack of capacity – how will we create healthcare that cares for our patients in a kind and careful way, such that they are engaged in the pursuit of their health, while still having capacity to pursue their life’s hopes and dreams? And why will patients choose to engage with us? Being able to identify the factors surrounding workload and capacity has been an eye-opening experience – encouraging because of the ability to recognize the factors when they arise but at the same time frustrating when you recognize as a provider our limited ability to adequately support the changed needed in certain situations of workload-capacity imbalance. Opportunities exist although they will require both partnerships within communities and significant changes in how we have approached quality based healthcare to date. There have been many times in discussions with patients when we discuss the factors in life contributing to their depression and/or anxiety that we recognize, it’s “life”, if we can’t address them, adapt the treatment plan to accommodate them then we must acknowledge and respect the factors. I have told many patients, “I haven’t found the magic pill to fix life yet but when I do, I promise I will let you know” and until then we must work with our patients to support them and utilize our available resources within the clinic and the community.
Truly having the patient as an active member in their care involves incorporating the patient’s perspective so they can make meaningful choices regarding interactions between their illness and clinical interventions. In some cases, that choice is to forgo treatment – in some cases the motivating factor is the potential of adverse outcomes, a lack of adequate benefit identified by the patient to assume the burden, or general forms of scarcity that mean that the resources the patient must tap into in order to adhere are simply out of reach. For example, patients may choose to forgo colon cancer screening via colonoscopy or the use of a statin medication for cardiac disease risk prevention for any of these reasons. Regardless of the health related decision – how will we train healthcare providers and patients to engage together in this level of care? And how can we apply these principles of minimally disruptive medicine such that we can improve not only our quality of care but patient outcomes with the goal of person-centric, engaged healthcare that aims to carefully and kindly support people with chronic conditions and seeks to prevent the development of chronic disease for our population in the future.
Submitted by Summer Allen, M.D.