Monday, June 17, 2013

Why don't Indian patients ask their doctors questions ?

During the consultation, I encourage my patients to ask me questions . However , I often find that some of them are quite reluctant to do so , and I think this is for two reasons - one which has to do with patients; and the second which has to do with doctors . 

Because most doctors don’t encourage questions, patients are not used to being told by the doctor to ask them questions ! This is why when I tell them to ask questions , they find this little bit startling and unusual and they are not sure how to respond . In a perfect world, doctors would  routinely encourage patients to ask queries, so they could clarify their doubts . However, because doctors are so busy , this often becomes a counsel of perfection which is relegated to textbooks. In the real world, it’s hard for most doctors to do this, as a result of which patients usually bottle up their doubts and queries. However, when things go wrong, this can cause a lot of long-term dissatisfaction , because of unrealistic expectations. This is what leads to complaints from patients , and this is often why patients feel cheated because they feel that the doctor did he not give them all the information which they needed. 

The second issue has to do with patients themselves . Patients have been brought up in a culture where they put doctors on a pedestal. They feel doctors know everything, and can be trusted to provide them with the right guidance . They are not used to doing their homework or finding out information for themselves ; or attempting to clarify details about the doctor’s explanations, even when this goes over their heads. 

Because patients aren't used to doing this , when they encounter a doctor who asks them to ask questions , they are not sure how to respond. The good news is that on the second visit , patients are far better prepared ! Not only do their homework, they come with a list of questions - most of which they have been able to answer for themselves. But if there are some complicated ones they are not certain about,  I'm quite happy to clear their doubts during the consultation !

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