Doctor-patient interaction… what can bridge the communication barriers?

First of all, let me congratulate for talking about a topic, which has been neglected for so much time for none’s good. It won’t be too harsh to say that most of the doctors don’t even connect with their patients well and neither they feel the need of doing so.

I wouldn’t blame doctors totally for it as one of my doctor acquaintance recently mentioned during a conversation. he said that over the period of past 25 years, he must have consulted more than 50,000 patients. Excluding the weird medical camps that he has been a part of which includes a rail compartment converted into a medical facility centre along with a fully functional operation theatre.

But, when I asked him how many patients would he remember or how many would remember him as a doctor… his interesting answer was that he wouldn’t remember even 10% of his patients, but every now and then he would be driving through a lane and someone passing by his side, would wave his/hands. So, the crux is that doctors might not remember their patients, but patients would definitely remember good doctors.

But, overall, it seems like an excellent question. There are innumerable possible reasons that motivates doctors or shall motivate doctors to talk to their patients well and establish a better and open communication channel.

Here are some of the important ones in my personal opinion:

  • You are in a profession where experience matters. The more patients you interact with and open up, the more stories you get to hear from them. many a times, I have heard patients talking about stories that inspired them to choose any specific doctor or medicine type. How someone went to Benguluru for heart surgery, at some charitable hospital, or how Nepal’s Lahan was considered to be the destination for eye treatment for a lot of Indian population till recently.
  • It’s good for everyone’s mental health when we get along and make patients comfortable. It sucks to stay in a hospital… and I sincerely feel that improving a patient’s outlook and mood augment their recovery too. Do you agree?
  • A good patient-doctor relationship is critical in providing the best care. If one does not take the time to cultivate this relationship through actions, words, patience, empathy, understanding, then the doctor and patient cannot trust one another to be forthcoming and honest about what factors may be contributing to the patient’s problems. Practically, the five extra minutes one spends speaking to a patient will save 50 later… imagine obtaining consents or justifying a procedure for outside records from someone who doesn’t trust you. It’s like pulling teeth. Still disagree?
  • A comprehensive history, obtained through open-ended, non-leading questions helps the physician generate a differential, which is then narrowed down with focused questioning. I’m not a physician, but from my limited experience, and from the advice of more experienced doctors… the vast majority of diagnoses can made before a physical examination has even begun. So, talking is really important. Agree to this one at least?

How’s been your experience interacting with the doctors? Do your doctors give you enough time during consultation process? What are some of your inhibitions during the doctor consultation process?

Will wait to hear from you…

Signing off…

Sanjeev Jha

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