Eroding trust – The saga of Patient-Doctor Relationships

Eroding trust – The saga of Patient-Doctor Relationships

The patient-doctor relationship is one of the most vital and sanct relationships. A patient has to trust doctors, to tell them his darkest secrets honestly, and to help doctors reach life-saving decisions. At the same time, doctors have on their shoulders, the responsibility to be unbiased and give the best medical advice.

But over the past years, this trust has eroded, slowly but steadily. This is counterproductive for the patients as well as the doctors. It deprives the doctors of the ability to serve people better and also leads to lower patient numbers, at the same time it might lead to a critical delay in vital diagnosis and treatment for the patient.

Why?

From being one of the most respected and authoritative profession to now being just another run of the mill jobs, medicine has come a long way.

  • Doctors are overburdened. Most of the time, they cannot give adequate time to the patients. They are so occupied, they almost become insensitive to patient concerns, questions, and doubts. This is not just in India, but all over the world. Moreover, this is more in newly qualified doctors as compared to old-school professionals.
  • Outlier doctors (the number of which has been increasing) don’t advise on the basis of medical conditions, but more often on the basis of their personal gains leading to malpractices. Industry-driven medicine has engulfed more and more number of doctors over the years. The interest of giant multinationals and the influx of huge sums of money has just made medicine a profit-earning machine for a lot of doctors and multinationals.
  • Poor pay scales – The rising competition, the need for sufficient funds to run huge hospitals, and the concentration of doctors in certain towns, has lead to meager pays to doctors, which pushes others into unethical practices to keep their clinics afloat.
  • The constant poor portrayal by media – Media plays its own role in highlighting the one pill-mill doctor and ignores the hundreds of heroic acts that are a routine in any hospital. The sensationalization and TRP-mongering behavior have spotted the white coats severely.
  • Internet and higher education have allowed the patients to search for everything online. They read, make some sense of the data, and diagnose themselves. Moreover, they question their doctors, their competence, and doubt their advice from the half-cooked knowledge in their heads.
Operation Rooms are one of the rare places where the patients show a lot of empathy and trust. We as surgeons also give our best to every patient we operate. Wish things were more like this in normal patients too, who almost always doubt our intentions.

Why is this issue more pertinent now?

Before we lose any trust in our medical system and its doctors, we need to revive this relationship. This pandemic has pushed all of us against the wall and made us introspect how and what we think about doctors.

Doctor shopping and internet extravaganzas are totally justified in today’s era when the consumer is the king. On the same lines, doctors need to put their patients first, ensuring that they give the best services to retain their customers as well as treat them well.

A long-lasting relationship develops over time. Spending adequate time with their patients should be the first priority of today’s doctors, irrespective of their busy schedule. A well-informed patient about his condition and any procedure being done on him is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

At the same time, patients need to be empathetic. Monetary gains are a part of today’s medical practice, but seeing every doctor with the glasses of being corrupt, based on outliers, is outrightly wrong. Mutual respect and faith is the way forward.

It breaks my heart to read messages on social media, which say “Coronavirus does not exist”. It questions science, that too with no solid reasoning. It is an insult to the doctors as well as those losing their lives to this disease. More importantly, it is a mirror to the society about how far we have come in the name of rebel and freedom to question science.

Mutual respect, faith, and spending adequate time are the only things that can stop this process as we go forward with the rapid advancement of newer technologies in healthcare. A happy doctor will lead to a happy patient, and a happy patient is everything a doctor can dream of.