Pandemic is changing the doctor-patient relationship and it may be here to stay

Pandemic is changing the doctor-patient relationship and it may be here to stay

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - For a cancer patient, the big picture of a successful outcome is always the top priority, but as University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center Chief of Surgical Oncology Dr. Jordan Winter knows, the big picture is always made up of smaller moments.

And the pandemic has stolen some of those moments.

“One way that it has changed is that I don’t hug my patients anymore. I feel like that would be frowned upon in this day and age,” Dr. Winter said.

Dr. Winter calls that appropriate affection an avenue to building a relationship, a trust, that is necessary, critical even, between doctor and patient when the stakes, are in many cases, life and death.

“We look each other in the eye, but we’re not seeing each other’s face. We have face masks so that patient-doctor relationship is a little affected,” Dr. Winter said.

In a move designed to reduce the stress for cancer patients, UH Seidman Cancer Center just changed policy.

The unit had been on virtual lockdown but now cancer patients may bring a family member with them on a doctor visit and in-patients may have one family member visit.

While the pandemic has increased the stress level for patients and doctors, there may be some good that comes out of this shared experience.

Tele-health is here to stay and when used correctly, Dr. Winters believes it can be a big part of patient care.

“It minimizes the friction of our visits tremendously and really allows us to interact on a patient-doctor level with anybody, anywhere in the world,” he said.

Tele-health will not be for everyone and will not be effective in every situation but there is little doubt in Dr. Winter’s mind that it is here to stay.

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