Saturday, June 23, 2012

What doctors can do to improve the image of the medical profession

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Doctors are understandably angry about the negative image in  which they have been portrayed by Aamir Khan in his talk show, Satyamev Jayate.

However doctors need to accept the fact that they are also partly responsible for this sad state of affairs. Often, doctors don't have very good patient relationship management skills and they sometimes appear to be uncaring. This is often true when a medical mishap occurs and patient has a complication . Doctors will then get defensive , clam up and hide facts, because they are scared that the patient will sue them. This just ends up making a bad situation worse , because patients get vengeful that their doctor has abandoned them in their time of need – and they are not willing to forgive this callous attitude.

Another major component to this anger against the medical profession is the perverse pleasure which doctors taking in bad mouthing each other. Doctors seem to enjoy doing this because of professional rivalry and competition  and they seem to play an endless game of one-upmanship ! The subtext seems to be – “ That doctor is a fool – and you were a bigger fool to go to him. Now, if you’d come to me in the first place, this would never had happened ! “ It’s very easy to be wise after the event , but all good doctors know that none of is immune to errors , and that complications can arise, no matter how perfect the medical care . When listening to your patient, do remember that  patients sometimes tend to distort the facts and provide a very one-sided picture, which may be completely skewed and incorrect.

I wish doctors had the maturity to realize that every time they criticize a colleague, they are actually harming themselves. What goes around comes around – and tomorrow it will be his turn to hurt you , when your patient has a bad outcome and goes to him for a second opinion.

Now I am not saying that doctors need to engage in a conspiracy of silence. All they need to do is to be mature, and try to treat the patient who has had a complication  as if they had been providing care for the patient themselves. After all, most experienced doctors have made mistakes and seen patients who have developed similar complications under their care. Rather than assume that the other doctor was stupid or negligent, it’s far more mature to assume that he did the best he could ( based on what information was available to him at that time) . Hindsight wisdom is always 20/20 – but looking backwards does not help. The important thing is to fix the problem and get the patient better, rather than try to blame the earlier doctor.

Mature doctors, who take this approach, will find that their practise flourishes, because their colleagues appreciate the fact that they have tried to help them in their time of need ! Treat your colleague the way you would want to be treated !

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