Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The other side of the stethoscope

Everyone acknowledges that improving doctor-patient communication will go a long way towards improving healthcare. A lot of misunderstandings occur because of communication gaps, which is why there has been a lot of emphasis on teaching doctors how to communicate better with their patients . Doctors are being told to learn how to be empathetic ; and they attend courses on how to improve their soft skills ; and are exhorted to improve their health literacy skills , so that patients understand what they are talking about .

However, I think patients also need to understand what their doctor feels and thinks - after all,  communication is a two-way street . When you are a patient you may not have much control over the doctor’s bedside manners – or how good or bad his empathetic skills are. However, you do have control over how you can communicate with him – and it’s worth polishing these skills !

Rather than simply expect the doctor to do all the work and expect him to be kind and empathetic it makes much more sense for you to be empathetic and think a little bit about what it feels like to be a doctor. Try putting yourself in his shoes and think about what he must be feeling ! If you do this , you'll understand a little more about what makes your doctor tick – and it’s help you to be a little kinder to your doctor .

The great thing about doing this is that it will automatically help your doctor to become much kinder to
you ! The best way of building a winning doctor-patient partnership is by learning to respect your doctor, so that  you no longer just treat him as a professional, but rather as a human. If you do so , he will reciprocate and treat you not just as a patient to whom he is obliged to provide medical care, but as a human being !

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