New Delhi: For many centuries, the relationship between doctors and their patients forms the cornerstone of delivering effective care across specialties and of illnesses, and this has received medical, philosophical, sociological and literary attention. Therelationship functionsinclude gathering information from the patient, making a treatment plan and communicating information to the patient and family. A strong doctor-patient relationship contributes to increased patient satisfaction, professional satisfaction for the doctor and most importantly improved delivery and quality of care.
The Dying Doctor-Patient Relationship
When a patient trusts a doctor, he/she will volunteer information that will assist in accurate diagnosis of the patient. This will lead to better treatment strategies and improved treatment compliance,whichin turn will improve overall healing and recovery.
For the past few years, this relationship has been questioned everywhere - whether it's Print media, Social media or Television. For instance, at the time of famous Durga Celebrations in Kolkata, the idol of the demon was replaced by that of a doctor in a white coat. After a strong opposition from the medical community,it was later removed. There have been several instances of public defamation and physical abuse towards doctors that have been highlighted on different platforms. Various senior media personnel have been encouraging viewers to defame so-called negligent doctors. Such accusations and instances are reflective of the general distrust towards the noble profession that tarnishes the sacred doctor-patient relationship with the patient being the ultimate sufferer. In every case, the integrity and motives of the treating doctor has been questioned staining the sacred relationship.Such news form seeds of distrust in the patients affecting the doctor-patient relationship.Studies have shown that a distrusting patient will refrain from volunteering complete information, increasing diagnostic inaccuracy, patients distrusting diagnosis and treatment plan and furthermorereducing compliance and patient satisfaction. Patients will want to seek a second opinion, increasing healthcare costs on an already overburdened system.Though the reasons for the distrust can be debated and have been talked about on various platforms, the deterioration of relationships does not benefit anyone.
Irrespective of the person, no doctor ever wishes his patient to remain sick and wishes him nothing but a speedy recovery. An alive and healthy patient is more valuable to a doctor than a dead one. A healthy patient will spread doctor's goodwill in the community that will ultimately contribute to his name and fame. Butif the doctor is threatened, survival instincts will kick in and he will instinctively and unintentionally prioritize his interests over the patient's, ultimately compromising the doctor-patient relationship and affecting the quality of care delivered. When there is a possibility of a poor outcome or if the patient is sick, doctors and hospitals will refuse admissions with the patient once again being the ultimate sufferer. The ultimate sufferer will be patient where the quality of care will suffer. This increases doctor's professional dissatisfaction. Becoming a doctor requires long hours, years of hard work and intense dedication and focus. This has traditionally dissuaded many from taking up the noble profession, hence attracting only the brightest students. With such defamatory instances, the brightest get disillusioned and may not join the healthcare workforce. In a country with a severe shortage of doctors, we need to encourage the next generation to take up medicine as a profession.
The instances highlighted in the media are onlyoddballs and not the standard of care in the medical community. We should not get affected with the propaganda and work towards strengthening the quality of care and building the trust between the doctors and patients. In the end, the ultimate beneficiary is the patient. ---Dr. Sameer Gupta