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Communication between a patient and a doctor is a key factor in determining the course, duration and outcome of a medical treatment. When a patient approaches a doctor for help, it immediately places the physician in a position of power. Patients are supposed to open up with their most intimate details and shed their inhibitions for the physical examination. While this position of power and complete surrender of patient helps a lot of times in diagnosing the diseases and comprehensive examination, it also leaves the patient feeling exposed with a developed mistrust for the doctor.
When the doctor patient interaction is only one sided with the patient asking the questions and the doctor answering them, it leads to miscommunications and substandard treatment with unwanted outcomes.
Take for example MDR TB. On talking to doctors in government hospitals it was found out that due to insufficient time patients were not counselled properly. This led to an increase in defaulters who wouldn’t complete their course of medication. This has ultimately led to an epidemic of sorts of MDR TB.
So how can we improve patient interaction? Read through to find out.
- Listening rather than asking:
A patient comes with a lot of apprehensions and more often than not they have a lot to tell the doctor about their problems. This leads to doctor dismissing a lot of these as unnecessary talks. A streamlined approach towards a problem is undoubtedly required but a patient is not a problem to be solved. Listen to them instead of cutting them off mid way.
- Addressing patient query rather than dismissing them off as trivial:
Patients come to you for help and have a lot of doubts. Let them ask their questions and be content. Disregarding their questions would make them feel inferior and you might shut them up from asking any more questions in the future.
- Giving ample time:
Give time to the patient you are examining. Yes there is rush and you are busy, but the patients are exposing their vulnerabilities to you. Let them feel wanted and not just another problem on your conveyor of patients.
- Dress to impress not intimidate:
Dress according to the patient population you are catering to. If working in a modest neighbourhood, dressing up demurely would help to build confidence. Also it’s time to ask ourselves if the white coat is enhancing doctor patient interaction or intimidating it.
- Use simplified language:
Chuck the jargon of medical science in front of patient. Don’t use scientific terms, patients are more comfortable with laymen language. They have a red patch not erythema, swelling and not oedema. The big words make the patients feel like they are on their deathbed. Please don’t tell a patient he has pharyngitis, just say it’s common cold. And of course don’t forget the Smile Language!
This article is written by Dr Prerna Motwani. You can read more such articles here.