What will a doctor never tell you?

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Todd Bessinger, MD, PhD, MPH says, Of the complaints that people present with, 95% will get better on their own. One percent will probably kill the patient, no matter what the physician does. That leaves approximately 4% of all of your patients for which you can meaningfully intervene and save their life. The implication was that we should always be on the lookout for that four percent.

This was eye-opening for me but after years of medical practice and reflection, I realize there is a large portion of that 95% whose lives can be improved with effective and compassionate medical care. Even if they are going to get better anyway, you can still relieve suffering.

The 95% theory also explains why pseudoscientific treatments work—especially if the patient believes they work. The combination of the placebo effect and the fact the patient was going to get better anyway is powerful medicine.

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