Tips for becoming a popular doctor- and improve patient care (LESSON I)
Most physicians think that if they treat the medical ailment of a patient, they will become popular with the patients. Now that my be true if you are a cardiologist and did an emergency cath to save a patient’s life. But for other specialties like Dermatology, unless you are curing melanomas right and left, or giving great cosmetic results , your popularity aint soaring through the roof.
Patients expect more from the doctors than just treating the medical ailment. They look for support, hope and empathy during that vulnerable phase of their life (aka sickness). The doctors ,who are more popular with the patients, are able to provide support, hope and empathy. That’s what make the patients click.
YOU CANNOT FAKE IT ! Never ever try to pretend to be supportive or empathetic when you are not. Even the oldest patient with minimal dementia can see through such a farce. The concern for the patient and the caring attitude has to be developed from within and then projected out. Otherwise your body language and oral language will be pointing in different direction, giving up your secret.
Here is the first of the series of tips to improve relationship with your patients and become popular among them:
LISTEN: The biggest complain patients have with their doctor is that we don’t listen. I hate to admit it, but that is true. Moment the patient opens his mouth, the differential diagnoses whiz through our high voltage brains. By the time the patient finishes his second sentence, we even have a treatment plan ready for him ! And now we cannot wait to tell , so we interrupt him or her. For most doctors’ if a patient is able to utter the third sentence, he should consider himself or herself fortunate.
Listening to the patients takes practice. We need to train our mind to do that. No matter how complicated the case is, the patient will not take more than five minutes to complete their part of the story. Many a times you will be surprised, how an uninterrupted patient leads you to the correct diagnosis. Also once the patient is assured that you have absorbed what he or she has gone through, they will have less questions or doubts on your treatment plan. They will trust your treatment and lets face it, there is a significant effect on the treatment results because of it.
While listening to the patient, do provide patient visual cues that you are understanding what they are saying. Look into the patients’ eyes and never ever yawn, even if you were on call for last fifteen nights.
EXTREME LISTENING: If there is a difficult patient/ family situation, just listening to them until they have nothing else to say, will change their feeling of mistrust and both the patient and the doctor win. If you don’t believe it, then give it one try if you come across such a situation.