I had a pretty cool day in the cardiology office last week. There were the normal ups and downs but it is always buoyed by the patients’ appreciation when we invite them to Walk with a Doc.
Jennifer, my last patient of the day, was a referral for palpitations.
She had been worried for months, tearful, and looking for answers.
Consumed with fear of disease, she had withdrawn from those around her. We ordered a Holter monitor, a couple labs, and invited her to WWAD. She smiled, became more engaged, and asked when we started the walk. Jennifer is not her real name.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, our 19th U.S. Surgeon General, continues to focus on the very real epidemic of social isolation. ← Great video
Why are we worried about social isolation? Here’s the fancy medical answer from Dr. Cacioppo followed by my answer.
Social isolation can have direct effects on cardiovascular disease risk factors. Perceived isolation and loneliness are associated with increased sympathetic nervous system activity, increased inflammation, and decreased sleep, all of which can accelerate brain and cardiovascular aging (Cacioppo, et al., 2011).
Who in the world wants to be lonely? It sucks.
(Yes, phones are part of the problem)
Millions of us feel that way, some more than others. At the end of our 15-30 minute office visits, Holly (my nurse) and I spend 5 seconds inviting our patients to Walk with a Doc (with a postcard). Holly is her real name. 5 seconds.
Hold on, let me get up on this soapbox. Just a second…
This part is personal/goofy – so please don’t share with anyone outside of here. When I got out of training and into practice, I was scared to death of missing something and I started ‘keeping’ an alphabet checklist in my head. I continue to try and address this with every single patient (A – need for aspirin, B – blood pressure, C – cholesterol, you get it) ‘G’ has always been Group Activity on my list. Studies have shown for a long time that those involved in their faith based orgs, in book clubs, golfing foursomes, quilt groups, etc., live longer, happier, healthier lives than those who don’t.
What I LOVE, all caps, LOVE about our Walk leaders is that they are providing the activity.
The office goodbye cannot continue to be, “Here’s your 6 month follow up card. Have a good winter.”
The correct office goodbye is now, “I want you in our club. You are important to me. I will see you at the Walk.”
How can that not be the right answer?
I LOVE that this crew is not okay with that old standard. Those days have passed. They want a solution that works, now.
Last Saturday, my wife and I went to our West Columbus Walk site.
You know I’m weird, right?
I wrote my new friends names down in my phone when I got in the car.
I walked with Judy, Chris, Rose, Pete, Office Ryan Sigman, Marilyn, Al, Cathy, Dale, Carol, Bandit, Buddy and Jellybean. We did not get a chance to walk with everybody.
Krissy and I loved it.
Different ages, races, genders, different everything and it was perfect.
The time has come for doctors to offer a simple solution that works.
It is an honor and a privilege for us to be in this position.
Now, let’s be doctors and turn this thing around.
-David, MD, FACC