The recent spate of attacks on doctors has highlighted the shifting trends in the doctor-patient relations. What used to be a sacrosanct and trust-based interaction, has increasingly been plagued by angst, mistrust and frustration. This article will attempt to throw some light on the reasons for this disturbing trend, as well as the author's suggestions to help improve this sacred relationship and attempt to analyze the behavioural adjustments which may bring about a shift.
- All doctors are out to make money: The fountainhead of most altercations between doctors and patients begin at this point. There's a popular saying amongst professionals: when you are in trouble, the doctor is the god, when you start recovering, the doctor is a mere mortal, and when the doctor asks for his fees, he is the devil incarnate. Doctors are human too. If the policy of "ask before you argue" is employed, one will find that most doctors are more than willing to emphasize, elaborate and explain the procedural costs that are involved in any treatment. Also, it is within the scope of the patients' rights to know why certain procedure, tests or investigations have been called for, and their clinical implications. Medicine and its associated fields need a huge capital investment to deliver a standard of care as demanded nowadays. That does not mean that each and every doctor is trying to get a return on investment on their armamentarium or knowledge bank, by suggesting a procedure or requesting unnecessary tests. In 99% of cases, the tests called for, or the procedure suggested, justifies the expenditure involved. That is the time to ask before you argue! Unfortunately, tarring everyone with the same brush, and labelling all doctors as mercenaries, only helps increase the divide, not bridge it! Social media, though a boon, can also be a bane. Many doctors are trolled or maligned, without hearing their side of the story, and this just adds to the growing sense of mistrust. One needs to introspect before posting malicious reviews of a doctor. Having said that, if the person finds that despite a patient and civil approach, he/ she isn't getting recourse or the right answers, seek a second opinion to clear the air.
- Doctors are very arrogant: To answer this, try working a 16 hour shift, making spot critical decisions, dealing with someone's life constantly, answering a barrage of questions (often the same questions being repeated and answered for the benefit of the patient and a horde of relatives), whilst constantly updating knowledge, trying to balance a personal life (or whatever is left of it) with a professional career, which is in a constant state of flux. The list is endless! From the standpoint of a doctor, what can be most annoying are the people who consult Dr Google before their consultation. They come in with fixed notions of their ailments, as well as the treatment protocol, and if the doctor doesn't ratify the same, then his actions become circumspect! Therefore, arrogance becomes a defensive mechanism. Though this is not to defend impolite behaviour or arrogance from professionals, if consultations or discussion of the treatment plan, are done with an open mind, and a civil interaction, more often than not, the person will come away with a lot more information forthcoming, without the angst.
- Doctors never listen to us: Not true, Even if the doctor looks or sounds detached while listening to the litany of complaints, mind you, his brain is hardwired to sift information from the chaff. The maxim learned in medical school is, listen to the patient, he is telling you the diagnosis. To maximize the consultation, be short, succinct, and to the point. Very often, you will find the doctor very receptive and open to that approach, and then delve deeper to investigate more about the condition, and even provide a lot more information than what one expected.
Unfortunately, giving a universal panacea to all issues will not be within the scope of this article, or a practical suggestion. Despite all attempts, there will be areas of friction between those who heal, and those who want to be healed. A rational, sane, compassionate and non-confrontational approach, on both sides, will greatly help in keeping the lines of communication open and provide the much needed healing touch to the turbulent relationship. Although its easier said than done, but each step taken towards that goal will eventually help us attain it.