Monday, May 06, 2013

Why don't you ask your Doctor ?

I enjoy providing a free second opinion as an IVF expert . I find patients are often confused and need an expert to provide them with an unbiased, objective second opinion, so they know they are on the right track. However, I sometimes get frustrated when patients ask me questions which they should be asking the IVF doctor who is treating them ! After all, it is their doctor’s job to provide answers – and often I do not have enough specific medical details to be able to provide intelligent answers.

So why do patients turn to me for a second opinion ? Why do they find it hard to ask their own IVF doctor these basic questions ? One of the reasons is that patients feel intimidated. They are reluctant to “waste the doctor’s time” because they know that their doctor is a very busy person and has lots of other patients to
see . They also don't want to appear to be foolish or ignorant , which is why they continue nodding their
head , even though everything is going about the head , and they are  completely clueless as to what the doctor is talking about.Few patients have the courage to be honest and upfront with the doctor and say – I don't understand !

Part of the problem is cultural. Patients are used to asking questions – and doctors aren’t used to answering them ! This is particularly true in India , where the schooling system encourages rote learning, and the teacher is treated as the expert who is the fount of wisdom and has all the answers . When these children grow up to become adults, they retain this attitude or unquestioning obedience to authority figures.

Patients will often not ask the doctor any questions because they don’t want to be seen as being
disrespectful . Some patients are just not very good at asking questions – they simply don't know how to frame their questions !

Doctors will compound this problem. They are often unapproachable and intimidating – and when the patient tries to ask questions , they will often brush these off – or will sometimes be downright rude and refuse to answer them. It’s easy for them to put patients “ in their place” .

These replies include–
  • It’s too complex – you will not understand;
  • I am the expert – just leave it all to me !
  • Why are you asking these questions – don’t you trust me ?

Once patients have experienced these kind of putdowns, they are understandably very reluctant to ask any other questions – and will not ask other doctors questions either, because they assume all doctors are the same ! If things go well, then there is no problem, but if there is a poor outcome, patients are very resentful and will vent their frustration on the doctor.

This reluctance on the part of patients to ask questions and on the part of their doctor to reply to them represents a great opportunity for clever entrepreneurs to act as an information intermediary , so that patients are able to get answers to their queries.  The best way of doing this is by providing an online platform . Doctors can leverage the technology to digitally deliver information to patients, without eating into the precious face to face time they have with the patient. For example, doctors can create a series of videos to answer the common questions patients ask them, and upload these their website. Patients can view this on their smart phone , even before the patient comes to the clinic !

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