I am writing this blog on the basis of more than 35 years of experience as a healthcare provider (Doctor)in varied roles. I have been a General practitioner, an Anaesthesiologist, Intensivist, Head Emergency, Hospital Administrator, Medical Director, CEO of large hospital chains and Adviser to investment in hospitals and healthcare businesses.
I write out of concern on the state of healthcare delivery in India and the way the doctor – patient relationship has evolved and changed for the worse over the years.
I am pained at the level of distrust and the widening of the “expectation- offering” mismatch between the patient and the provider (hospitals and doctors).
I am concerned at the kind of marketing and business practices that are being practiced in healthcare delivery( doctors, hospitals, Pharma accompanies, medical device companies and others) today.
I am troubled by the way the narrative around healthcare delivery has painted hospitals and doctors as villains with unscrupulous elements taking advantage of the situation.
I am writing this as the industry appears to be clueless about how to change the narrative and make it more balanced. They have run out of fresh ideas on what they need to do? What should they stop doing? What should they start doing? in order to regain the trust and respect that this profession once commanded.
In the succeeding paragraphs I have tried to capture the essence of what the modern day patient is looking for and expecting from us! Are we listening? And if yes are we ready to change?
Honesty and integrity
The patient is looking for honesty and integrity in diagnosis and treatment. When they seek treatment from us they come with trust and respect, till we damage or destroy it. They want us to acknowledge our personal limitations and resources and the limitations of medical science.
To be Listened to
Patients are looking for doctors who LISTEN to them. Doctors who don’t take their genuine queries as a professional affront, but as an opportunity to allay their fears, concerns and build trust.
To be treated as individuals
Patients don’t want to be clubbed in boxes of a particular disease or condition but as individual human beings seeking relief and succour.
Want to choose
Patients are looking for proper education regarding their problems and treatment options and want to have a say in the decision making process. They hate to be hustled into a surgery or procedure however important it may be clinically. They want to CHOOSE.
To be treated with respect
They want to be respected as individuals and responded to in a respectful manner in an equally respectful tone of voice. They are looking to form deep collaborative relationships characterised by trust, mutual respect, and a commitment to their best interest. We must acknowledge that not every patient seeks to manipulate us or the system.
Disease Education and support to comply
Most patients want to comply with instructions to maximize their health and minimize the impact of their illness. It is just that they need to have a proper understanding, need reminders and nudges. It is disheartening and difficult to handle any disease especially chronic ones that have no cure. We must practice empathy.
They are tired of one doctor criticising the diagnoses and treatment approach of a fellow professional. Specialists and super specialists in order to prove their personal superiority can go to any extent to deride another fellow doctor. What a pity because when we do this we also diminish ourselves and look small. We need to exhibit a collaborative team approach !
Remember most patients are intimidated by the hospital environment and the doctors, hence don’t speak up for fear of being dismissed or labelled as difficult cases.
The modern day patients are more vocal and will not be silenced. If they can’t speak out in front of us they will use social media to vent! We can’t afford to underestimate or ignore the power of social media to both make or break!
the writing is on the wall. We have choice- to change or continue. If we want to change the doctor- patient dynamic, then the change must begin with us.
We must remember they are our patients not our problems!
They are the reason for our existence and hence not expendable!