Wednesday, August 6, 2008

About patients....from the side of the physicians: Do they get it right?

It's been an eventful day in the patient/physician blogworld.

If you've kept track of what's going on over at Dr. Rob's Musings of a Distractible Mind, you already know he's raised some thought-provoking topics lately that have touched a nerve in the patient populace. Frankly, I've been a respectful thorn in his side with my comments and posts because he's touched a nerve with me, too. Well, Dr. Rob posted another one today: Getting along: Part 1 - Doctor Rules. You have to admire him. He boldly goes where no physician has gone before. (Hum the Star Trek theme here...) Ok, slight hyperbole, but you get my drift.

He wasn't the only one who posted about patients. Over at Brain Blogger, What Makes A Good Doctor? - A Patient’s Perspective, gives a patient's point of view.

Dr. Shock, M.D. responded on Brain Blogger and linked to his recently posted Patient Doctor Relationship: Humanism and Medical Professionalism.

I hear some common themes in all three, especially in the area of respect. I think just about anyone can agree with that. Respect from each to each is important. Respect is earned, and one office visit usually won't get either one there. However, something must happen at that visit to make the patient want to come back. Dr. Rob seems to understand that for the most part. I think Dr. Shock does. He waxes eloquent a bit more in his post.

There are two things that keep popping up at me, though, when reading the physician's perspective versus the patient perspective.
  1. Physicians do not expect the patient to be learned/knowledgeable.
  2. Patients do expect the physician to be learned/knowledgeable.

And thus the conflict sometimes begins. I tried to come up with a useful analogy the other day when discussing this. I thought about choosing someone to work on my automobile and how I can, as a female especially, get "taken for a ride" sometimes if I don't know enough to choose wisely. For example, I was told I needed a new air filter at the tune of $37 when I had my car checked and oil changed. Thankfully, I knew they only cost about $7 at the local parts place next door and that all I had to do was open a plastic cover, pop the old one out and pop the new one in.

I thought about when my auto mechanic told me there was nothing wrong with my car, but I knew that when I accelerated above 45 mph there was a definite vibration and the steering wheel actually shook. My auto mechanic was flat-out wrong and when I asked him to take it on the road, he realized he was. And yes, I spent a while convincing him I'm not a stupid female. Ahem...

So, where does that get us in the analogy part? Well, it works to a point. But here is where it breaks down: How can I get Dr. Rob, Dr. Shock, and Dr. Whomever to "ride my automobile and feel it vibrate"? I can't. They cannot try out my heart, feel my 'roid rages, know my pains, etc. They have to ultimately take my word for it.

With my mechanic who says, "My machines say there is nothing wrong. All the tests come back negative", I can say, "Take it for a test drive." Uh, well, I don't think anyone in medicine has quite figured out how to do that yet with the human body.

Thus, I shop for a doctor who will listen. And I shop for one who will treat me like I have a brain. And most of all, I shop for one who keeps up with current research and advances in medicine.

How do I know if my physician keeps up with the current information? Because I keep up with it. It's not hard to figure out if s/he does.

There is a lesson we all can learn through this. I'm learning it, too. Human beings, no matter what walk in life, need to be treated as learners and teachers. We all have something to learn, and we all have something to teach.


1 comment:

  1. Another very insightful post. Thank you so much for your advocacy.
    Also, a doctor who listens and treats me with respect - those are my main criteria for choosing a physician. While I do go in hoping he knows what he is doing, if he shows me that he is willing to do the research and learn, then that is even better in my book.



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