Dream or reality?

In this article I focus mainly on public sector health care consultations. It is an open ‘secret’ that UK public health services are: short of staff, doctors are overworked, many groups of staff are suffering with burnout, clinic sessions are quite time-limited, follow-up visits are few and far between, patients are often not given sufficient time and support to ask questions.

Following a concentrated first consultation for between 45 to 60 minutes, it is difficult for patients to remember all that was said. When I meet patients I inherit for follow-up visits, it is frequently the case that they do not know for what medical conditions they are being treated, and what is the purpose of each medication prescribed to them.

In today’s fast-paced world, a visit to the doctor’s office can often feel rushed and impersonal. Yet nearly every standard states that patients should be treated with respect and as involved participants in their care. Nonetheless,  significant proportions of patients leave their consultations feeling confused and unsure, a sentiment that echoes in the hallways of medical practices everywhere. But what if there was a way to change this narrative? What if patients could leave their doctor’s office feeling informed, empowered, and cared for? That would create demands that may not be manageable.

The Dream

A New Approach to Healthcare

Imagine walking into a doctor's office where the receptionist hands you a pre-visit questionnaire, allowing you to jot down all your concerns and questions. As you enter the consultation room, the doctor takes the time to review your notes, ensuring that every question is addressed. The conversation flows naturally, with the doctor using plain language, free of medical jargon. You feel heard, understood, and involved in your care. The appointment doesn't feel rushed; there's even a dedicated time for questions, ensuring that you leave with a clear understanding of your health. A follow-up letter summarises in understandable words the main points and explanations given.

Technology and Teamwork

But the care doesn't stop at the doctor's office. Through a patient portal, you can access your medical records, educational materials, and even schedule telemedicine follow-ups. Nurses, pharmacists, and care coordinators become part of your healthcare team, providing additional support and education.

A Culture of Compassion

This vision of healthcare isn't just a dream; it's a movement towards patient-centred care. It's about creating a culture where questions are encouraged, where feedback is welcomed, and where patients are partners in their care.

The Road Ahead

Of course, this transformation doesn't happen overnight. It requires changes at every level, from scheduling longer appointments to training doctors in active listening. It's about exploring new reimbursement models that reward quality over quantity and implementing policies that emphasize patient education. The result? A healthcare system where patients feel valued, informed, and empowered. A system where doctors are not just providers but partners in care. A system that recognizes that the heart of healthcare is not just about treating diseases but about caring for people.

The Reality

Limited time and resources

  • Longer consultations: While ideal, longer appointments require more time from healthcare providers, which may not be affordable given current staffing levels.
  • Increased costs: More personalized care might lead to increased operational costs, challenging already tight budgets.

Staffing shortages

  • Not enough doctors: A shortage of medical professionals can lead to overworked staff and less time for individualized care.
  • Training requirements: Implementing new patient-centred approaches requires training, which takes time and resources that may not be readily available.

System constraints

  • Conveyor belt model: The current healthcare model emphasizes efficiency and throughput, potentially at the expense of personalized care.
  • Reimbursement structures: Funding models that prioritize quantity over quality may discourage investment in patient-centred initiatives.

Technology challenges

  • Implementation costs: Introducing new technologies like patient portals or telemedicine requires investment in infrastructure and training.
  • Digital divide: Not all patients have access to or are comfortable with digital tools, limiting the effectiveness of technology-based solutions.

Cultural and organizational barriers

  • Resistance to change: Shifting to a new model of care requires organizational buy-in, which may be challenging to achieve.
  • Patient expectations: Changing patient expectations and encouraging active participation in care may be a slow and challenging process.

Regulatory and policy considerations

  • Regulatory compliance: Implementing new practices must align with existing regulations, which may limit flexibility.
  • Policy support: Without supportive policies and guidelines, implementing widespread changes can be difficult.


In a world where healthcare often feels complex and impersonal, there’s a growing movement to bring compassion and understanding back to the doctor-patient relationship. By embracing strategies that focus on clear communication, patient education, and a multidisciplinary approach, we can create a healthcare experience that truly resonates with the needs and desires of those we serve. However, all that good stuff requires time, good staff who are not burnt out, and who actually care.

The dream of a more empathetic and patient-centred healthcare system is built on hope. The realities of limited resources, staffing shortages, system constraints, and other challenges present obstacles. The barriers make the dream unattainable. No one is coming!