In God’s Hotel: a Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine Victoria Sweet raises fundamental questions about the current practice of medicine based on her observations and work for twenty years at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, the last almshouse in this country.
Her book has wonderful portraits of individual patients, whom Sweet came to care about deeply. The time spent with them along with her scholarly research on Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century nun and healer gradually allowed Victoria to understand the body as a garden to be tended, not just a machine to be fixed. She believes that modern medicine has superb scientific tools to treat diseases but time constraints and efficiency have piggybacked onto technological progress. Patients may be cured of their diseases, but they are on their own to find their way back to feeling better and balanced. Dr. Sweet maintains that medicine works best when the doctor has enough time to sit, listen and examine. With time, a physician can treat a disease and hopefully contribute towards healing the patient. Dr. Sweet calls this approach “Slow Medicine” and she believes that if this approach became more standard, it would be more satisfying for both patient and doctor as well as less expensive. She has said that "On average they have 10 minutes to spend with a patient, of which three minutes go to the electronic health records. So we basically have seven minutes to spend with a patient. We doctors really want to connect, but by the time the patient gets him or herself on the examining table, we’re down to four minutes. So if I had to summarize in one sentence, I’d say that slow medicine is about having a personal relationship between doctor and patient. I get as much out of it as the patient does. It’s a healing relationship that goes both ways.” The New York Times calls her ideas “hard-core subversion,” Vanity Fair writes a “radical and compassionate alternative to modern medicine,” and Health Affairs describes Dr. Sweet as a “visionary.” This article originally appeared here.