Sunday, September 02, 2007

How to talk to patients !

Why are most doctors so poor at talking to patients ? For professionals who are technically capable of transplanting a heart or doing brain surgery, such a simple skill should be child's play ! However, the sad truth is that many "good " doctors who are technical maestros in the operation theatre are terrible at communicating with their patients.

There are many reasons for this, but rather than focus on problems, I'd like to offer a simple solution - Doctors need to learn how to think like their patients.

For doctors, every patient is just another medical problem - usually a "routine, bread-and-butter" affair; and every once in a while, an interested zebra. However , for every patient, any medical problem which is worrisome enough to get him to seek medical attention is a major cause of worry. This often means that even very articulate and well-organised executives often go to pieces when they are sitting in front of their doctor.

Doctors need to remember that patients are anxious; worried; distressed; and confused. Until you can put yourself in your patient's shoes, you will have a hard time figuring out why they cannot understand your " simple " instructions. This is why doctors who have been ill themselves often make such good doctors - because they know what it's like to be on the wrong side of the consultation desk !

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