“Slow Medicine” – A Review of God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine

I just finished reading God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine.  I enjoyed it so much I decided to pass on the recommendation.  The author, Victoria Sweet, is an internist who took a part time job at  Laguna Honda in San Francisco so she could complete a PhD in medieval medical history.

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Laguna Honda, was the last “almshouse” in the United States, a place where poor and displaced people in need of medical care could go and stay – often for years.  The patients she describes will be recognized by anyone who has been a medical student or resident in the United States.  Their stories range from diagnostic victories worthy of Sherlock Holmes to painful commentary on our social support of those with more chronic illness.   In the process of telling these stories, Dr. Sweet explains the wonderful blend of what she learned from the unique medical practice of Laguna Honda and the medicine practiced by Hildegard of Bingen.

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This is a book that clearly points out the difference between being a doctor and being a health care provider.  The current push to practice medicine more efficiently has real consequences for both patients and physicians.  This book is a reminder that if we rush to move patients through the system we risk missing important diagnoses … and compromising the important relationship between physicians and patients.  This book is a gentle manifesto for “slow medicine”.  As Dr. Sweet puts it “It’s about giving doctors time to go a good job.”

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