I share my birthday with someone very famous, I would say that almost everybody in the world know his name. At least we all know his work or rather, the result of his work. Nicolaus Copernicus was born 498 years ahead of me, to the day, and of course his work fundamentally changed the way we view the world, literally. I think our similarities start and end with both being born on the 19th of February.
Copernicus was born as the fourth child to a Preussian merchant and his wife and he truly was a child of the Renaissance. He had a doctorate in Canon law and was also a physician, astronomer, classics scholar, translator, governor, diplomat and economist (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Copernicus).
Around the time of 1532, Copernicus’ work had resulted in a manuscript titled De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), where he challenged the ancient geocentric view of the universe.
The work of Copernicus was further developed by Danish nobleman and astronomer Tycho Brahe (known to have died as a result of refusing to violate etiquette by leaving a banquet to go pee), German scientist Johannes Kepler and Italian scientist Galilei Galileo. The book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Latin for “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy“, often referred to as simply the Principia by English mathematician and sir Isaac Newton confirmed the hypothesis of Copernicus a “mere” 155 years after it was postulated.
You are probably wondering what this unwarranted history lesson has to do with healthcare? Well, in my view, healthcare is in dire need of a Copernican Revolution. We need to go from the current healthcare-centric paradigm of healthcare to the natural and, to me, obvious patient-centric paradigm. “But”, I hear you say, “surely healthcare is already and has always been putting the patient in the centre of attention”. Sure, but “the centre of attention” is not the same as being patient-centric. Let me give you an example:
A friend of mine spent some time in the hospital recently. He also has Parkinson’s and since he took ill rather suddenly, he didn’t have his medications with him to the hospital. If you know something about Parkinson’s, you know that our medications are what keeps us going, keeps us moving, and without it, we would not be able to function very well. My friend had notified the nurses at the ward about his problem and told them that he needed to have his medications as soon as possible. They told him that they would get him what he needed when the hospital pharmacy opened at 10 o’clock the next morning. The next morning came and my friend reminded the nurses of his need. He was told that they would get his medications in due time. My friend was becoming increasingly rigid and he tried to tell the nurses that he really needed his medications. At this point, he was probably recognised as “another one of those difficult patients who think they know our job better than we do” and all the while he was getting less and less able to move by the minute. When a nurse finally arrived with the medication he needed, she had to put them in his mouth as he was no longer able to do it himself. He told her to come back in half an hour and she wondered if he would really need more medication that soon. No, he said, I want you to see the effect these drugs have on me. She came back with a colleague 45 minutes later and the patient she had left not even able to raise his hand to his mouth, was now sitting up straight in a chair, cheerfully reading a newspaper. He saw her surprise and said “Can you see what the medications do for me? Do you understand now why I need my pills when I say I need them and not when it suits your schedule?”.
The transition from a healthcare-centric system to a patient-centric one will not be easy, no more than the transition to a heliocentric view of the world was.
But I sincerely hope that we won’t have to wait 155 years for it to be completed!