Tuesday, April 27, 2010

But I am not a doctor, doctor !

I often ask my patients to interpret their own medical test reports. Some of them look at me as if I was crazy ! " You are the doctor, not me ! I am not a doctor - why are you asking me ? "
And I am sure some of them must be worrying that the fact I am asking them means I must be so clueless that I cannot interpret the results without their help !

I explain to them that I am not trying to make them a doctor - I am just trying to help them take an intelligent interest in their treatment. They need to make sense of their options, so they can select the one which is best for them. The good news is that many patients use the internet to do this on their own - and I try to facilitate this process.

If patients can make sense of their own problems, we can figure out solutions together - and it's my job as a doctor to help them to do so. I maybe the infertility expert - but they are the ones who are the real experts on their own lives .

This approach is useful for me too. Sometimes, as a doctor, I tend to acquire a a medicalised perspective on life , and take for granted the fact that patients understand the medical terms we use. Sadly, they often don't, but are too intimidated to ask questions or seek clarification. This ignorance can lead to unrealistic expectations - and a lot of heartburn and grief later on.

Asking them to interpret their own reports helps me to to see the world through their eyes; and also empowers them , because they know they need to do their homework before meeting me !

When patients ask me - How do I make sense of this ? , I remind them not to underestimate their intelligence. None of this is rocket science - and I am always their to help them understand the reports. Unfortunately, many doctors try to " complexify " infertility treatment. By using medical jargon, they try to put patients in their place, so that patients know who is the "expert". This is not a helpful approach, and we do out best to simplify and demystify treatment options for our patients. If, as Albert Einstein said : "It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid", I am sure we can explain IVF treatment to our patients !

A good patient does her best to understand what is happening to her - and a good doctor will do his best to help you understand !

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