One doc doesn't wait for patient permission to talk about tough topics

While some doctors ask permission from patients when they want to bring up "sensitive" topics such as healthy diets, smoking or unprotected sex, one doctor isn't buying the approach.

While he may get called a “closet paternalist” or a “traditionalist,” Barron H. Lerner, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of medicine and population health at the New York University School of Medicine, makes no bones about it: His primary role as a doctor is to improve the physical and mental lives of his patients--and he’s not asking them for permission before broaching these topics in the exam room.

Lerner writes in a recent post for The New York Times’ “Well” blog that he knows that his patients are the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to how they live their lives. Still, he’s going to make sure that they’re armed with the best possible information about topics such as how eating a plant-based diet can dramatically reduce their chances of getting cancer, heart disease and diabetes. While some doctors might be asking patients, 'Can we talk about your weight or binge drinking', Lerner isn’t asking.

Doctors shouldn’t be shy when it comes to informing patients about potentially healthy interventions and topics such as mental illness, substance use, sexual behavior and diet are fair game, he says.

Translating medical courses such as biochemistry, physiology and anatomy into real-world conversations doctors can have with their patients during check-ups can really have an impact on topics such as healthy diets, as previously reported by FiercePracticeManagement.