Doctors on the Small Screen

by Joe Lavelle on March 19, 2013

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In my writing on the exploding career opportunities within the world of health IT, I may focus on the ways in which doctors can use social media to communicate with patients or people can use a smartphone app to keep track of their prescription intake or lives can be saved as primary care physicians enjoy critical record sharing with specialists.  These topics are certainly important.  But, rightfully so, many are worried about the chance that greater technology in medicine could equate to diminishing humanity in those vital doctor-patient relationships.

With that hesitation in mind, I thought I would dedicate an article to thinking about some of those fictional doctors from the small screen.  What can they teach us about how to communicate with patients?  Here are a few that came to mind:

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show

Dr. Frasier Crane from Cheers and Frasier

Doogie Howser, MD from . . . well, the show of the same name

The entire cast of ER . . . and Grey’s Anatomy . . . and St. Elsewhere . . . and House . . . and Scrubs . . . and M*A*S*H

Do you want the funny doctor who can tell stories about his five kids and make jokes about how your husband won’t be able to handle what happens in the delivery room?  Or the unusually handsome doctor who seems somewhat distracted by his personal life all the time?  Maybe the physician with the brilliant mind who can diagnosis your symptoms when everyone else in the hospital seems stumped but who isn’t going to hold your hand and speak with compassion when sharing the news?

I know that actors on a television show cannot replicate the challenging set of circumstances that real doctors face every day in their line of work, but I simply offer up this post as an exercise in diversion.  So, I turn it to you.  If you could make an appointment with any fictional doctor, who would be getting that phone call and why?


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