Recent data reports show that physicians spend, on average, 13 minutes with a patient during office visits. And one in four physicians spends less than 12 minutes.

It is obvious that in this short window, patients justifiably can feel pressured for time as they sit down to engage with their provider, but often leave without answers, plans or long-term guidance.

American medicine is often designed to focus and treat symptoms by adding medications and therapies that might provide only temporary relief. Patients can become frustrated and lose hope in achieving desired outcomes. They can become medication-dependent. They might feel discouraged about reaching their health goals when their time with a physician is limited. 

Physicians have known for a while that the financial constraints placed on them by a healthcare system are hurting relationships with patients. So often when a patient contacts the physician’s office with an issue or even a basic health question, the answer ends with a recommendation to visit the emergency room to be evaluated further.

This response typically stems from overwhelming schedules and lack of patient time available in order to meet standards set by the healthcare systems and budgets, not from a lack of care by physicians. However, patients can still feel disconnected in a “relationship” with their physician.

What can be done? The future of health care should be focused on going back to the patient-physician relationship.

To combat medical issues and emergency room visits, patients must start taking charge of their health before they are at risk of needing drastic measures.

Having a physician that offers the time to build a relationship with you while you are healthy, or ready to become healthier, is key.

Of paramount importance is finding a physician who will work with you to create a guided and proactive approach to achieving optimum health and vitality – for you.

Physicians in this role can help patients make daily healthy choices vs. quick fixes, medications and therapies that provide only temporary relief.

Current technology has made it much easier for patients and their providers to communicate, even after hours and miles away. There are physicians from major institutions who are building this relationship and managing their patients by cell phone, while influencing and guiding appropriately. 

Trends today also show patients electing to invest more out of pocket costs to have the ability to see a provider who can give them more time and a specific plan. Many see and believe this to be well worth the cost to have a deeper-level relationship with their physician. 

Heather Hinshelwood, MD, FACEP, a proponent of healthy living, practices at the Fraum Center for Restorative Health.