Friday, September 18, 2009

What do patients want from their doctors ?

Being ill is scary. Trying to find the right doctor at this time can be a very stressful experience !

Patients want to find a doctor who
- they can trust
- who is technically competent
- who is available
- who will not over-charge them

I advise patients to make a sort list of doctors - and then interview them all, so they can find the one who they like the best.

However, over the last two days , I have been making the "doctor rounds" while accompanying a friend who needs an angioplasty , so I got a first hand view of what the process can be like.

In reality, most patients don't have the time or energy to do this. Also, they just don't have the skills to judge a doctor's competence , which is why most use a short cut or convenient rule of thumb. For the vast majority, this would consist of talking to doctor friends or colleagues, so they can get recommendations as to which doctor they should go to. Most will then select a doctor based on geographic proximity - and then hope for the best.

It is true that "word of mouth" is very important and this is often what makes ( or breaks) a doctor's reputation. Most of us will depend upon friends and relatives for recommendations as to which doctor to go to; or which lawyer to select.

Unfortunately, this is a very inefficient and unreliable process to make such a vitally important decision.

The good news is that the internet can make this much more efficient. While doctor-rating websites still leave a lot to be desired, well-informed patient communities provide a great resource which can allow patients to judge which doctor is right for them. These communities allow patients to cut through a lot of marketing hype - and also help to keep doctors and clinics honest, because bad reviews can easily damage their reputation and practise.

Empowered patients can help to heal a sick healthcare system !

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