Worth Your Doctor’s Time?

Your doctor spends a small amount of time on you for a diagnosis that might seem lifechanging. What can be done about fully understanding the diagnoses and getting a second opinion?

Before the internet dominated the world, it was a much simpler time. People believed and trusted doctors 120 percent, although most felt helpless when the doctor uttered some elusive medical terms that were clearly crucial, however useless at the same time. “Listen to your doctor and follow your doctor’s advice,” seemed the only way out. Even with the prevalence of 4G/5G technology and smart phones, many people still tend to listen.

If a doctor could allocate enough of his/her time to listen to me, I would probably feel more comfortable to follow. The truth is, I spend far more time outside the doctor’s office seeking medical answers rather than in it. According to an article published by Innovation Medical, an ER pediatrician at one of Shenzhen’s public hospitals received around 300 sick kids every day during the flu season last winter, which was three times the regular workload. A doctor spends an average of 2.4 minutes on each patient in Guangdong, a report by the China Medical Associate, 2014 revealed.

It is very likely you will be constantly interrupted during the pitifully small amount of time by other eager patients who have no idea of what privacy or waiting in line is.

I can’t help getting frustrated when I need to see a doctor. Not only do I want my doctor to fully understand my medical history, all my symptoms, the development of my situation and concerns, but also explain to me the possible treatments, medications, side-effects and every little detail. It seems a luxury, I know. Fortunately, we are now living in an era of artificial intelligence. Earlier this year my son had a severe cough and we had seen several doctors—Western and TCM—nothing seemed to work. One of my friends suggested a Taiwanese physician and shared the story of how her son stopped coughing miraculously after taking a particular prescription medication for just one day. I ran the name of medicine on Medicine Assistant (Yòng Yào Zhù Shǒu用药助手), an app which helps you find all sorts of information about medicine, including electuary TCM and herbs. WebMD offers a similar function for English speakers. It turned out to be a strong medicine and a large dosage had been given. No wonder it worked so well.

Fortunately, we are now living in an era of artificial intelligence.

Since then I have armed myself with another AI-powered app for information on medical instructions, common knowledge on diseases and so on. What’s more powerful is the self-diagnosing function. You can input basic information and symptoms in a dialog box. Then the app will ask follow-up questions, like “Does your kid show any sign of suffocation when coughing?” Or even send you sample photos of certain kinds of rashes which you need to compare with the real case, identify and confirm. A report will be generated accordingly with a possible diagnosis. The report lets you know the chances of having a certain kind of illness, along with information from people who suffer from similar symptoms, suggested medications, treatments and which clinic departments you should go to.

Although we will be able be make informed decisions regarding medical needs, we are not doctors. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more time with a real doctor with whom you can talk to about everything in depth and detail?

There are some places in Dongguan that offer these kinds of services, you just have to know where to look. You can make an appointment before seeing your doctor in a private room at YYL Hospital (hearing this already made me feel better). Because of YYL’s reservation only system, every patient is sure to have a designated time to talk with a medical professional. The doctor puts the patient’s concerns into consideration before prescribing treatment, for example, the rehabilitation department may suggest a substitute treatment to the patient who is suffering from a neck pain but unwilling to have acupuncture. They will tell the patient why this medicine is administered, how to take it, what the effects and side effects are clearly.

Seeing this is similar to watching Sherlock Holmes solve a crime and clarify how he solved it.