The importance of doctor patient relationship is, I believe, fundamental to your well being as well your health care. I use the term ‘doctor’ loosely here, to cover all health professionals, holistic or mainstream. Chiropractors, naturopaths and veterinarians are given this title in some countries, as are homeopaths. So, for the purposes of this article, a doctor is any health professional offering you ways out of suffering.
First and foremost, you need to FEEL that this person is right for you, regardless of the disciple of health care. You can sometimes get this feeling by looking at their website, their photo, their articles. Or you may need to visit them a few times before you get this sense.
We have an extremely well developed intuition. Many of us have forgotton how to use it, but once we have fired it up and got in some practice, it will always serve us. Us. Not anyone else. The fact that you like or dislike a particular doctor may not have anything to do with their ability, their qualifications or their experience. But just because they have helped your great aunt Susie, you dog and your boss, doesn’t mean they will be able to help you.
Respect should be paramount in all and every relationship. When there is no respect, it is unlikely there will be any honesty, truth, compassion or help.
One of the areas that is often most blatantly disregarded is patient time. Doctor time is deemed more important. Certainly it makes sense to organise your day efficiently, but not at the expense of the patient.
To give you an example, many years ago, I consulted a medical specialist (long before I knew anything about homeopathy). There were about 12 of us in the waiting room. After about half an hour, when no one had been called, we got a bit restless and started comparing notes. We had all been booked in at the same time… Gasp.
The specialist didn’t arrive until an hour after the appointed time. That meant some of those waiting would have been kept there upwards of two hours. The funny thing is, no-one left. Including me.
The consultation certainly gave me no hint of a caring specialist and did nothing to create a doctor patient relationship that I wanted to repeat.
A few years later, and I was kept waiting 20 minutes for a health appointment, with no apology, no explanation. Again, I remained, but the ensuing consultation did nothing to nurture a patient doctor relationship. I didn’t return.
Maybe I’m a slow learner, but the third time I was kept waiting, this time over 20 minutes with no apology, no explanation, I walked out. Never to go back.
Of course things happen that are outside the doctor’s control. That’s where explanations come in. And what’s wrong with an apology? As far as I know, it has never hurt anyone. Apologies aren’t just about being sorry, it’s about showing care, consideration, respect.
Sometimes, when a patient is truthful to the doctor, and says they won’t be coming back, for whatever reason, they are told that they won’t get better. This honesty is obviously a shock to the doctor’s ego, or perhaps wallet, so they reply in a childish manner. As there are many other doctors out there as well as many other disciplines of health care, their reaction is obviously untrue. To me, this is the epitome of a very poor doctor and patient relationship.
Taking any phone calls during a consultation disrupts the train of thought of the doctor, automatically reducing your chances of a helpful outcome. Personal phone calls definitely erode your value for money and show a high level of disrespect for you, the patient. (The opposite also applies, to keep your doctor waiting while you receive a phone call.) Outside emergencies, phone calls especially personal ones, during a consultation are a sign of disrespect.
Many doctors feel superior to ordinary people. This is an illusion. No-one is superior or inferior to anyone else. The doctor of your choice may know a little more about that discipline than you do (hopefully), but that gives no excuse for superiority.
If you can’t contact your doctor between consultations, this can be an exercise in controlling you. Few doctors are so busy they can’t find the time for the occasional phone call, email or SMS, as long as it isn’t abused, as long as the receptionist can’t answer the query. It should be part and parcel of the deal.
On the flip side of this argument, you may be persuaded against your instincts by well meaning friends or family who disapprove of your choice of health care. You may already have developed a good doctor patient relationship many are envious of, but are swayed by others. Don’t be. They are perfectly entitled to their opinion, but they are not entitled to interfere with your choice of health care for you. Or for your dependents.
Sometimes you have to be strong to stand up for yourself. If they truly loved you, they would not try to interfere. They would stand beside you through thick and thin, respecting your choices. That’s what real love is. Unconditional.
Nothing is ever guaranteed in health care. A strong and respectful patient and doctor relationship doesn’t guarantee you will recover or improve. But it will make the contact meaningful and something will always come of this.
All relationships should be based on respect. Respect for another being, their differences, their preferences. There is a (maybe more) native American tribe who allows a long pause after anyone speaks, to allow the information to soak in. To me, this conveys so much respect.
It is common for people to be seeing doctors of different disciples of health care. If each doctor does not support your choice, or worse ridicules it, then I suggest that they are showing you a high level of disrespect; for you, for your personal choices, for the profession they probably know nothing about.
If you don’t yet have a good doctor patient relationship, keep looking! No one is perfect. You may not like everything your doctor does or represents, but you should always feel honoured and respected.
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