Innovating Connections in Family Medicine


Brian Champagne, MD

This blog post is a finalist in the STFM Blog Competition.

Two years ago I chose family medicine not only to develop a diverse skill set and knowledge to handle almost any patient concern, but also to build a connection with numerous patients of different ages to learn from them as they learn from me.  

Fast-forward to now, I’m in the depths of a busy clinic, stabilizing a crying baby’s ear and desperately searching for a reflective hue amid a narrow tunnel of earwax. I’m not finding it.  I glimpse for 2 seconds before the child’s war cries rattle my own tympanic membranes and I abort the mission. On my third try, I hit the jackpot and visualize a reflective drum. My job is done. I instill some confidence in the mom that her baby will do fine without a goodie bag of antibiotics. We share a bonding laugh at the absurdity of spending over an hour out of her day for a one-second examination with a magnifying glass.

I scamper to my computer and slam in some orders for vaccines, glance at my schedule, and then briskly walk to the next room down the hall. Behind the door is a 70-year-old woman seated in the infamous tripod pose, hunched over with retracting neck muscles, swollen legs and appearing worried. She was discharged just 2 weeks ago for heart failure. I examine her and order 40mg of IV Lasix. A half of an hour later she’s still retracting. I kneel to tell her she’s going to get through this and she nods appreciatively, hoping I’m right. I send her to the hospital for more diuretics as I tap on the door of my next patient.

It’s a wiry 60-year-old man who describes brief spouts of right upper quadrant pain so severe that he swears it’s worse than childbirth. I examine him and explain the possibility of a problem in his liver or gallbladder. After ordering some labs and a right upper quadrant ultrasound, he thanks me for my care.  Days later, my suspicion is confirmed. Gallstones are present and off to surgery he goes.  

While I enjoy these hectic days and the meaningful connections I find through them, I also understand that in 10 years, my family medicine clinic will likely run differently.   

For the screaming baby with possible otitis media, if mom had sent in photos of her baby’s eardrum with a smartphone, perhaps a 10-minute video call would have provided all information that supportive care is appropriate.  

For the 70-year-old woman with persistent CHF exacerbations, perhaps if she were plugged into a system of communicating nurses trained in heart failure management, maybe she wouldn’t be in need of another hospitalization.  

For the 60-year-old man with right upper quadrant pain, if a quick bedside ultrasound by the physician were possible, perhaps he could have been referred to surgery that day.  

With small improvements in patient care, we have the opportunity to develop a more efficient and inexpensive health care system with better health outcomes.  While I delight in new technology that enhances our care for patients, some aspects of family medicine won’t change. Technology won’t change the reassuring words we can offer to a worried parent or acutely ill patient. It won’t alter the power of our receptive ears being present for a scared patient. And it definitely won’t replace the wisdom, laughs, perspectives, and connections we encounter with our patients each day. And that’s good thing.  

59 responses to “Innovating Connections in Family Medicine

  1. Love the ending! Congrats Brian 🙂

  2. Awesome post!

  3. Brian, thank you for sharing these experiences so honestly and humanly. I really enjoyed envisioning these situations from the doctor’s perspective. I love your vision for using technology to streamline patient care while not dismissing the need for human interaction and caring.

  4. Great post! I find the intersection of tech, medicine, AI and the like to be incredibly compelling and interesting to speculate. I feel all the technology in the world won’t replace the human touch. How often to we select “0” to go straight to the operator instead of using automated phone systems?

  5. Family docs like you are-or should be-the foundation of our medical care system. Technology will allow you to be more nimble yet increase your hands-on care! Best wishes!

  6. Great piece! As we continuing to move towards becoming more high tech, to maximize patient care we must aim to remain high touch.

  7. Good point Matt! We feel unheard by a machine. I enjoyed writing it. Thank you Terri! Definitely Agree, Jane.

  8. Loved your insight and perspective. Exciting to envision what the future holds for a more efficient health care system.

  9. Excellent essay! A very good perspective for future of family medicine.
    Also a very humanistic doctor. Good job Dr. Champagne

  10. Well-written with visuals that drew me in. Your caring and compassion wrapped in clinical expertise shine through. Thank you for all you bring–our world is a better place because of your contributions and presence.

  11. Excellent Essay! I agree we will need to make better use of our technology if we are to move foreword in primary care. Good luck!

  12. It’s wonderful to have a glimpse into the medical profession and how it’s changing alongside technological innovations. It’s true that we can’t understate the value of human connections, though, particularly when the issues involved are often life or death and the quality of life.

  13. Great article!

  14. Great article! It really shed a light on the different aspects of family medicine and its intricacies, both the challenges and the rewards. Your perspective and compassion is awe-inspiring!

  15. Inspiring article

  16. Awesome! Congrats Brian!

  17. Amen, let’s move foreword Family Medicine!

  18. Horatio From Hamlet

    yay Brian!

  19. Rings very true! Keep it up Dr. Champagne!

  20. Amazing!

  21. Very well-written! Your love for medicine shines though.

  22. Thank you for bringing a listening ear to medicine!

  23. This was a great read. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Thank you for sharing your insights with us. I remember going to med school with you two years ago. It is inspiring to see how much you have grown as a physician and how much you have not changed as a compassionate, thoughtful, and humorous person.

  25. Nice write up on an everyday look into your profession and how you look to how it can improve as tech improves!

  26. We need reminders like this to re-focus what medicine and healing is all about. I enjoyed the glimpses of the clinic and the practical examples of technology enhancing the patients’ care and the physician’s satisfaction in his work.. That’s the attitude and mindset needed to adapt the the changes in health care.

  27. I really like the article. I can definitely appreciate modern technology aiding us in our practice but nothing can replace the care that good doctors provides for their patients.

  28. Excelentes experiencias, excelentes historias, una sola realidad!!! Buen trabajo Doctor Champagne. Adelante con esa noble labor!

  29. Amazing piece to read!

  30. The art of medicine lies in the integration of technology and human connection, one of the best parts of being a family doctor!

  31. Enjoyed reading your blog post. I think you’ve got a good perspective and a great voice for telling the doctor’s side of the story.

  32. You’re killin’ it Dr. Champagne! I wish we could work together!

  33. What a wonderful article from such a great doctor!

  34. Nice job Dr. Champagne!

  35. Great perspective on the “zygote to zombie” mentality of family medicine and wonderful insight into what’s to come with a positive twist. With so many articles by well meaning but burnt out physicians on the doom and gloom of the future of medicine, it was very refreshing and motivating!

  36. Good article! Congratulations, keep going, applause for you!

  37. The healthcare industry needs more MDs like you, Brian! Your authenticity and compassion is a breath of fresh air. I like how you approached this topic from both angles; acknowledging how technology can benefit our health system, as well as its limitations. Thank you for sharing!

  38. You spoke to the different aspects of family medicine very well.

  39. Good article! Congratulations, keep going, applause for you!

  40. Trevor Hershberger

    Way to go, Brian! Love to see you chasing and achieving a dream–and writing about it so eloquently! Best. 🙂

  41. Brian, from the moment we met at UCSD, your appreciation for those who shared wisdom and the elderly were apparent. It warms my heart that you are seeking to making our healthcare more centered on prophylactic treatment, more interactive, and more respectful of our elderly family members…via one amicable, caring interaction at a time.

  42. Wonderful and insightful essay! I can only hope that, as medical technology progresses, there are medical professionals as passionate as you about providing the best patient care possible!

  43. Beautifully said Brian! Great article!

  44. Great post Brian!

  45. Great read and insight to the future of medicine!

  46. Great perspective! The irreplaceable human connection. Im thankful for it too.

  47. Love this!

  48. Couldn’t agree more! Nice job Brian!

  49. Veronica Holbrook

    Inspiring! Can’t wait to join the ranks of family docs on the front lines!

  50. An encouraging and thoughtfully captured snapshot into the busyness and pressures of a family medicine, topped off with the humanism & love within it.

  51. Hopefully technology will also become more inexpensive in time so smaller offices and clinics will have access to these useful tools, and all patients will have access to quick yet thorough answers.

    How refreshing to read about your personal touch with your patients. You sound like an awesome doctor, and I wish more were like you.

  52. you have to be careful with those wiry a 60 year old that say his pain is worse than childbirth. Fun and caring article

  53. Three cheers for you, Brian, and your compassion for patients. Great article!

  54. Great post!

  55. Great article Brian! Wonderfully stated 🙂

  56. Keep up the good work!

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