Robert M. Arnold, MD; Lachlan Forrow, MD
Many patients think that there are shortcomings in the ethical dimensions of patient care, and research supports their view. In this issue of Annals, Erde suggests that physicians' incomes should depend on patients' assessments of their ethical behavior in much the same way that waiters' incomes depend on patrons' tips. Although Erde's solution is satiric, the problem is a serious one. The experiences and perspectives of patients regarding their own illness are undervalued by physicians. A truly patient-centered care demands that physicians elicit, understand, and respond to patients' perspectives. Tying physicians' pay to measurements of patient satisfaction is unlikely to dramatically improve the ethical quality of patient care as long as attention to the patient's perspective is seen as peripheral to "good medical care." Rather than relying on a single, easy "fix," we must re-examine all of professional development and practice. We need to choose persons for medical careers who will find patient-centered care rewarding; we need to provide such persons with training and socialization that underscores the value of personalized medicine; and we need to build institutions and systems that facilitate and reinforce patient-centered practice. The best ways to achieve these objectives are as yet unclear, but if we, as physicians, are offended by Erde's "modest proposal," then we must respond by proposing and implementing our own ideas about how patient care can become more humane.
Arnold RM, Forrow L. Rewarding Medicine: Good Doctors and Good Behavior. Ann Intern Med. 1990;113:794–798. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-113-10-794
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1990;113(10):794-798.
Ethics, Hospital Medicine.
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