Blog | Monday, October 20, 2014

We physicians need a Ganesh attitude

Over the years, I have had the great fortune to learn about different cultures and religions. I have many colleagues and residents who are Hindu. They have taught me about Ganesh. For those of you who do not know about Ganesh, this paragraph gives a summary:

In general terms, Ganesha is a much beloved and frequently invoked divinity, since he is the Lord of Good Fortune who provides prosperity and fortune and also the Destroyer of Obstacles of a material or spiritual order. It is for this reason that his grace is invoked before the undertaking of any task (e.g. traveling, taking an examination, conducting a business affair, a job interview, performing a ceremony,) with such incantations as Aum Shri Ganeshaya Namah (hail the name of Ganesha), or similar. It is also for this reason that, traditionally, all sessions of bhajan (devotional chanting) begin with an invocation of Ganesha, Lord of the “good beginnings” of chants. Throughout India and the Hindu culture, Lord Ganesha is the first idol placed into any new home or abode.

He represents intellect and wisdom. But the most important characteristic is Destroyer of Obstacles. Too many in medicine seem resigned to that train that has left the station. They sit around and lament what “they” are doing to “us.” They no longer consider fighting for changes.

Yet I see hope. I will admit to being an incorrigible optimist, but to me the signs are positive.

Performance measurement is changing. Bad performance measures are being changed and withdrawn. Many more “mainstream” thought leaders are advising a significant reconsideration of performance measure.

The enthusiasm of EHRs has waned. We now see an appropriate backlash. ACP published an important letter in JAMA Internal Medicine about the impact of EHRs on outpatient practice, “Use of Internist’s Free Time by Ambulatory Care Electronic Medical Record Systems.”

We all have a responsibility to not give up. We must speak out against administrative burdens that harm patient care. We should channel Ganesh and work to destroy obstacles to outstanding patient care. That is our responsibility. No excuses, no crying, no despair.

db is the nickname for Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP. db stands both for Dr. Bob and da boss. He is an academic general internist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and is the Regional Associate Dean for the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of UASOM. He still makes inpatient rounds over 100 days each year. This post originally appeared at his blog, db's Medical Rants.