Saturday, May 05, 2012

Why don’t doctors share information with their patients ?

One of the commonest complaints patients have about doctors is that they don't tell them anything about their medical condition . They feel doctors keep them in the dark ; tend to be brusque; and are not very forthcoming in general, when pressed for information . Patients often feel short changed ; and there is a general perception that doctors are not very good at answering patient's questions. Some patients can get quite paranoid about this – and some even believe that doctors hide stuff from them, so that they can keep patients in their place !

Patients are also reluctant to ask questions because they feel that some of their questions are stupid; and they should not be wasting the doctor’s precious time by expecting answers to all their trivial worries. Patients also feel that doctors get irritated if they ask them too many questions, which is why they are reluctant to do so. After all, no patients wants to rub their doctor on the wrong side - and even if they don’t understand what the doctor is saying, they will continue to nod their hands and pretend complete comprehension – which means that many doctors are completely in the dark about how much in the dark their patients are !

So, why don't doctors share more information? Why aren’t they more forthcoming? Is it just a problem with time constraints? Is it that doctors are so busy , that even though they would love to sit down and talk to their patients, they just don't have the time to be able to do so ? Or is it that most doctors suffer from poor bedside manners , and are just not very good at answering their patient's questions?
The answer is complex and multifactorial. There are some surgeons who feel that their talents are best used in the operation theater ; and they feel that sitting and answering patient's questions is just a waste of their time , which could be put to better use by opening up the patient and operating on him. Some doctors get visibly irritated when patients ask what they feel are silly questions.

This reluctance on the doctor’s part to answer the patient's questions often leads to a breakdown in doctor-patient communication. This is why , if things go wrong, patients are often very resentful and angry ; and want to seek revenge , because they feel that their doctor was not forthright and transparent , and did not share information with them.

The reason for this misperception is manifold. Communication is a two-way street , and it's not always the doctors fault when this is poor . Sometimes patients keep on asking the same questions repeatedly, which will often upset and irritate doctors. Patients do this because they sometimes don't want to hear the truth, and they feel that by reframing the question , the doctor will give them an answer which is more to their liking. Sometimes the reason patients repeat their questions is because the doctors are not very clear . Doctors tend to use a lot of medical jargon and technical terms , as a result of which the patient is often more befuddled than before.

The solution for this problem needs to come from patients as well as doctors. Doctors will always be very busy and will never have enough time to be able to see all the possible patients who are waiting for them in a leisurely fashion. This is why a lot of their patient educational activities should be done online; and doctors can use clever technology such as online videos and patient educational brochures ( which they can publish on their website in the form of FAQs ) so that patients can get their questions answered without always having to talk to the doctor.

Patients also need to take some responsibility for making sure they're well informed. They can't afford to leave everything up to the doctor or expect the Doctor to answer all their questions for them. They need to spend some time and energy doing their homework , so that they can ask more intelligent questions of their doctor.

Always remember that the quality of the answer depends on the quality of the question - and the more intelligent your question , the more intelligently your doctor can answer it. Also, if you ask intelligent questions , your doctors are more likely to respect you and provide you with better medical care.

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