Scientific Detectives for Better Patient Care
It’s our job to help patients piece together the clues to their own healthcare
E. Blair Holladay | | Opinion
Over the past decade, we’ve seen a growing trend of patients feeling empowered in their healthcare journeys. They are more involved than ever – curious about their diagnoses, the tests they undergo, and their treatment plans. They have a wealth of research at their fingertips and their interest in their own health and wellness has been accelerated by the move toward personalized medicine. Patients ask questions and expect answers. Being an active participant in healthcare today requires a high degree of independence.
But patients can’t go on their journeys alone.
Though they may be able to track their symptoms or investigate treatment options, patients cannot make a diagnosis themselves. They cannot analyze test results to best chart a course of medication in a vacuum. For a patient, true empowerment means collaborating with their care teams. Patients cannot embark on a treatment plan without the knowledge and support of their clinicians. They certainly cannot move to the next step of their healthcare journey without leaning on the expertise of the laboratory.
We know that laboratory professionals touch almost every part of a patient’s care journey – from blood draws to diagnoses. Do patients know this, too? Some do, but raising the visibility of the laboratory is part of our duty as pathologists and medical laboratory professionals. We are the scientific detectives of the healthcare world and we are the leaders to whom patients can and should turn when they are faced with a diagnosis that has the potential to upend their lives. We must convey our critical role in their care and help patients understand that the laboratory is the bedrock of their healthcare journey – and this only becomes more important when patients are faced with a diagnosis that they simply do not understand. We have the insight to help them make sense of this step of their journey.
Whether the diagnosis is something we see in the lab every day or a condition we rarely diagnose, what matters most is the patient behind the diagnosis. That is where we, as scientific detectives and caregivers, can share and use our skills, applying what we know and what we continue to learn to best treat the patient. We bring a wealth of solutions to save patients’ lives every day, and our role as trusted leaders in our patients’ healthcare journeys is something we can, and we must, pursue and embrace.