Dr. Ravi Godse That’s it? Do we just get a day? How about every day is a doctors’ day and every day is a patients’ day? Do we think our mothers pray for us only on mother’s day?
How about we celebrate all of us, every day? When I worked in India, I used to get a lot of notes about whom the patient knew. Not much medical history but the patient’s friends and contacts. When nobody is a VIP, everybody is a VIP. When everyone stands in a queue, the queue suddenly gets shorter.
It is hard for a doctor to say that, he/she is on vacation and won’t answer the call. If the doctor has a unique knowledge about the patient, he/she will try and help and but the patients should also know the boundaries and respect that doctors have private lives, families and recreations. A well-rested, relaxed doctor will perform better. The patients have every right to be treated respectfully and professionally, but it’s a two way street.
How do you trust a doctor? Well, what do you mean? If a doctor asks you to go to a specific laboratory to get the blood work, how do you know, you are asked to go there because the laboratory is good or the doctor is getting a cut. The answer is really simple. The time that you spent researching the doctor’s answers and diagnoses, spend it instead of finding a doctor you can trust and then follow the advice without second guessing it. Simple. How do you find doctors you can trust? Easy. Do what we Indians love doing? Ask around. Ask as if your life depended on it! It’s a slogan for our local health system. If you can’t find a single doctor you can trust, either there is something wrong with you or the whole system is beyond redemption.
What about the quack doctors? Doctors, practicing without degrees? We doctors don’t want to get into the regulatory and enforcement part of that. We have enough on our plate. If the government can find the pandemic act of 1897 to make the doctors do their bidding, I am sure, the government can come up with a bureaucratic solution to rid us off these charlatans. But there should be no violence. No violence against anyone. Even with a traffic accident things can come to blows. Why is that? Where does that anger come from? Smile, exchange information, call your lawyers and move on. The situations can be easily diffused if there is some patience and willingness to listen to each other.
Let’s address another elephant in the room. Money. It’s not a bad word. If we grudge the doctors the money that they make, maybe market forces will adjust and brightest minds will seek other professions. We get the specialists we are willing to pay for and we get the politicians we vote for. Simple. It is a noble profession and doctors to tend to go above and beyond their calling. There is nothing wrong if they are appropriately reimbursed. Like Emerson said, “ All sensible people are selfish”
Can doctors do better? You bet. We do plenty but sure we could do more.
We tend to give a vibe that we are too busy and our lives are not all that great. Not true. If it was true, why doctors’ kids are relentlessly pursuing their parents into the same profession. Also, if we are too busy to talk to a patient, what’s the point of being busy?
We could little more to listen. Typically an interview lets patient speak last only a few seconds more. So more open -ended questions will build trust.
We could be a tad less irritable. Most of us are fine most of the time, but at times, patients/families know what buttons to push. We have to listen to our consumers. If we wanted to easily and willfully ignore them, we could have tried another profession. Politics, perhaps!
If the patients and doctors develop a friendly, professional, respectful relationship, where just meeting each other makes you feel better, how great that would be! And we can always find time. We can use humour. A patient of mine, when learned about the movies I direct, asked me whether I would retire as a doctor. I replied that I would likely make a list of 50 patients I like and just see them. He asked me whether he was on the list. I replied, that he was the reason I got into movie making so I can retire. He knew I was joking. But he didn’t know that he didn’t make it on the list of 50!
So what’s my message to the patients? Nothing. No message. You talk, I will listen.
What’s my message for other doctors in India? Nothing. I don’t practice there so I likely won’t know the ground realities. But I doubt anyone will argue with the importance of listening. We hear often, but seldom listen. We see things but seldom notice. We need to slow things a bit, and not wait for a pandemic to slow it for us.