Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Why I prefer talking to patients rather than doctors

I just finished doing a consultation for a patient who been referred to me by a general practitioner. I had spent about 35 minutes , explaining to her that she needed IVF treatment ; and what this would entail. She was a chartered accountant and had a good grasp of the situation and understood the pros and cons of the procedure. At the end of the consultation, she made a request - Doctor , could you please talk to my general practitioner and explained your advice to him.

I was a little taken back at this request. We take pride in making sure that our patients are well informed about their treatment because we think we are answerable to our patients and they need an in-depth understanding of what the treatment entails. This is why we spend so much time in educating and counseling , so they know exactly what's happening.

While I will write a thank you letter to the referring doctor so that he knows what I'm planning to do and is in the loop, I usually prefer not talking to the doctor who has referred the patient to me. Now it's not that I'm antisocial or that I'm rude – it’s just that I feel that when one doctor talks to another , sometimes the patient gets left out of the loop.

This is why I prefer explaining to the patient exactly what I'm going to do; and then documenting this advise in a file , which we give to the patient. I request the patient to go back to the referring doctor , so that she can then discuss my advice with her. I feel this is a better method, because it ensures that the patient really does understand exactly what I told her . This is actually a far better way of improving doctor-patient communication. This method is better for the patient because the patient is the one who's the repository of information. It's also good for the general practitioner because then the referring doctor is confident that the patient has a clear understanding of the problem ; and that I have done a good job explaining to her as to what's involved. This method ensures that everyone is on the same page and that the patient is actively engaged in her treatment !

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