When intuition presents itself into our health consciousness as patients, it can be thought of as that innate intelligence we seem capable of as human beings to "know" when something is right or wrong with our bodies. Carried to the extreme with a focus on every bodily feeling, it might lead to hypochondria. Carried to the other extreme, however, and dismissed, it might lead to denial of symptoms and a delay in treatment. Health care providers (HCP) may also have strong intuition, a "hunch" about a diagnosis or treatment approach that comes about as a merging of years of clinical practice, good listening skills, reflection, and the ability to probe and ask the right questions of patients.
Last week I evaluated a patient for the first time. She has a paralyzed vocal fold resulting from a surgery performed 3 months ago. When she raised a concern shortly after the surgery, saying "I knew something wasn't right," she was advised that there was nothing to worry about, and that her voice problem would resolve. However, it did not resolve, and nor did her own nagging feeling that something was wrong. At least three times during our interview, she stated: "I know my body." Her self "knowing" is especially relevant, as she now is angry about her prolonged problem, and the original physician may find himself in a litigious position because of his poor response in dealing with the patient's complaints.
Other patients, while undergoing speech therapy, often talk about symptoms and feelings they are having in response to medications. These symptoms can vary from day to day and within a day, and as such, I always encourage them to record those feelings. A calender with notations or a small diary may provide their physician with the sort of objective data they are more accustomed to, and create an environment for discussion to explore the symptoms further.
Intuition can sometimes get a bad rap in western medicine which often places a high value on diagnostic tests and clinical procedures. But, at the heart of both of the two scenarios described above, is a need for patients ( all persons) to be understood. We all wish to have our feelings, ideas, and concerns given validation. Patients need to be able to communicate effectively to their health care providers, and by empathic listening to patients, health care providers may better understand and uncover the physical and emotional causes of a particular symptom or symptoms.