3 Things Dr. House Taught Me About Healthcare

Fox’s House, M.D. enjoyed a lengthy run and acquired millions of fans worldwide with its unique and sometimes brazen take on modern diagnostics and medical care. Now that the Emmy-winning show, created by David Shore, has concluded its eight-season run, armchair physicians everywhere are finding themselves taking time to absorb the lessons they learned from cantankerous Gregory House, M.D., played by Hugh Laurie. Three of Dr. House’s most memorable lessons are outlined here.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Simon Davison
There Are No Coincidences
Time after time on the show, Dr. House and his team were presented with a patient who continued developing new and unusual symptoms even after treatment had begun for what originally appeared to be a garden-variety illness or disorder. Rather than treating or managing each symptom individually as it arose, the team took all the symptoms present in each patient into account when considering diagnoses, and more often than not, even unrelated symptoms turned out to be manifestations of the same underlying condition. “Coincidence” was never an adequate explanation to Dr. House, who prided himself on his own ability to see the larger picture and connect small parts into a larger whole. Using whiteboards, brainstorming sessions, and even, on occasion, dreams to assist him in his final diagnosis, House proved over and over that genuine coincidence is rare in both life and in medicine.
Lying Can Kill You
One of House’s favorite sentiments was, “Everybody lies.” When collecting medical histories from patients, he expected them to lie to mask more unsavory parts of their lives or pasts, and considered possibilities that the patients themselves would have had him believe were impossible. House routinely sent his team on reconnaissance missions to patients’ homes or workplaces to gather evidence, investigate, and even snoop around in order to determine which parts of the patient’s story were true and which were less-than-honest. By accepting humankind’s inherent inclination to lie to avoid embarrassment or conflict, House kept his diagnostic options open and was often able to solve medical mysteries that would bewilder a doctor who accepted patient statements at face value.
It’s Never Lupus
Lupus, an autoimmune disorder that affects the body’s connective tissues, resulting in pain, fatigue, and skin rash, is not as common as many television shows and movies would have us believe. Dr. House never allowed his team to rely on lupus as a diagnosis without ruling out every other possible cause of a patient’s symptom first. As a result, patients were often diagnosed with rare but more treatable or manageable conditions, and their symptoms could be alleviated more effectively than they may have been with a lupus diagnosis.
A New Perspective on Modern Healthcare
Ultimately, Dr. House and his team strove to provide top-quality healthcare for patients whose illnesses had evaded other doctors. The show focused on diagnostics, treatment, and the subtle ways human nature could affect both more than the costs and litigation that comprise much of the news we hear about the current state of healthcare. Above all else, Dr. House taught us that everybody lies, there are no coincidences, and lupus is never the answer–truly unusual, but intriguing, medical lessons from television’s most unusual doctor.

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Dr. Linda Crawford is a dermatologist and guest author at http://top10medicalschools.net, a site with reviews of top-rated medical schools.