A Patient's Perspective on the Doctor Patient Relationship

Merely Me Health Guide May 18, 2009
  • In Part One of this Series Doctor Nitin Sethi had graciously agreed to share his viewpoints of the relationship between doctor and patient from the doctor's point of view.  This time I will offer my point of view from the standpoint of being a patient.

     

    I do hope you feel free to contribute with your own take on this dynamic between patient and doctor.  We want to hear your stories and thoughts on this topic.

     

    What are some of the personal qualities which are important for a doctor to develop rapport and trust with patients?

      

    In my opinion the traits I am most looking for in a doctor are knowledge, compassion, communication skills, empathy, and good organizational skills. 

     

    I want a doctor who will take the time to listen to me and validate my concerns.  I also want a doctor who is skilled in their specialty and has the knowledge to take care of me.  It is also important to me that I have a doctor who keeps their appointments and returns phone calls. 

     

    What personal qualities do you look for in a doctor?

     

     Why is it that so many people do not ask questions of their doctor?

      

    This is a question which I have pondered for some time.  I really get a feel for how bad things have gotten between doctors and patients through my work here on Health Central.  There are so many questions asked which are best answered by the person's doctor.  Yet people would rather ask their peers for answers than the medical community.

     

    And I can understand some of the possible reasons behind this.

     

    I think one reason is time constraints.  You go to see your doctor and they only have so much time.  You have to think of your questions ahead of time and get to the most pertinent ones first.  The doctor simply may not have time to address all of your questions.   I think too, in our high tech society we want answers now.  We don't want to have to wait for a doctor to return our call.  So we turn to other resources.

     

    Another reason may be that we trust someone who has been there and done that.  A doctor can give their medical viewpoint of a procedure or medication but if they have not gone through it themselves then they cannot fully give you that firsthand experience so many of us wish to know.

     

    Still yet another reason why people may be reluctant to ask questions of their doctor is that they may feel intimidated or uncomfortable.  Communication is sometimes a barrier as we might not understand what the doctor is saying to us when we do ask a question.  In search of laymen terms and explanations we seek our answers elsewhere.

     

    So what do you think?  Why are so many people reluctant to ask their doctor questions?

     

     

    In my opinion is it good for the patient to have researched their symptoms or condition on the internet before going to see their doctor?

      

    I think it greatly depends upon the person but generally a resounding YES!  I must say that everything that I have dealt with needing a medical opinion, I had researched on the internet before going to the doctor.  I do believe that my research about MS, for example, led me to a much speedier diagnosis.  I knew what symptoms were important to tell my doctor about.  I knew about the tests.  I read the first hand experiences of others who had undergone the arduous process of getting their diagnosis.  Research helped me to feel more in control.  It is my first tactic when I am confronted with something new. 

  •  

    The other great thing about using internet resources is the tremendous amount of support you will find no matter what you are dealing with.  I find the internet to be a tremendous resource of hope and emotional support. 

     

    Now having said all this I have to say that you have to use common sense.  The internet and all the research in the world cannot replace seeing your doctor!  You must get tests done.  You must be seen in person by a doctor to know what is wrong.  You cannot get a diagnosis on-line.  At some point you must trust in science.  Doctors didn't spend all that time in medical school for nothing.  They have knowledge we do not have.  There comes a time when you must rely on their expertise. 

     

    I want to make the point too that some people are prone to hypochondria.  They get frightened by all the information on the internet and think that they have all of these serious conditions without seeing their doctor.  And they may trust in information which is totally inaccurate.  There is so much bunk on the internet.  Please use common sense.  Don't believe everything you read.  Question everything.

     

    What are your thoughts?  Do you think it is good to research your symptoms or condition on the internet before seeing your doctor?

     

    Why is it that some doctors dismiss alternative therapies to treat illness?  How can a patient bring up the fact that they may use alternative treatments without feeling dismissed?

      

    I have a story about this. 

     

    My youngest son had green diarrhea and loose stools for the longest time when he was little.  I kept bringing this up with his pediatrician who I greatly respect.  But my son's pediatrician is not so keen on looking outside the box.  He told me that the green poop was due to my son's developmental delays.  "Say what?"  Each time I asked about my son's issue I was put off.  I finally told the doctor that if he told me this was normal for my son to have green poop one more time, that I would leave a diaper filled with the stuff on his desk.

     

    He finally responded by sending us to a gastro doctor.

     

    In the meantime my friends and supports on the internet were telling me about the Gluten/dairy free diet.  Some were even promoting this as a cure for autism.  I am an extreme skeptic and I research everything I hear.  While I never believed that this diet could cure autism I did wonder if my son had food allergies.  He had been dairy free for years as he was found to be allergic to milk products early on.

     

    But what about wheat?

     

    When we went to this gastro doctor I made the "mistake" of discussing the gluten free diet.  Immediately I was accused of looking for miracle cures for my son's autism.  I was livid.  I had made no mention whatsoever about curing anything, except his green diarrhea.    The very mention of this "alternative" treatment sent this particular doctor into a tizzy. 

     

    After being interrogated about my reasons for bringing my son to see him, this doctor gave no help whatsoever in treating my son's bowel issues.

     

    After this humiliating experience, I took my son to an allergist.  Surprise surprise!  Guess what my son was found to be allergic to?  Wheat.    As a matter of fact, he was found to be sensitive/allergic to other food items as well.

  •  

    By that time I was already implementing the diet for my son and within a few weeks his hives, his extreme eczema as well as the green loose stools had gone away. 

      

    My lesson here was that some doctors are so closed minded to anything which strays the least little bit from what they have learned that they totally miss the boat in looking for answers and providing effective treatment.    It is good to find a doctor who is respectful and open to hearing about other possibilities for treatment.  They do need to protect you from scams and possible harm.  Yet in this case potential harm to my son in the overlooking of a rather common cause of my son's symptoms could have led to a continuance of the problem.  I am glad I did not listen to this doctor.

     

    What are your thoughts?  Has your doctor been open to discussions of alternative therapies or treatments??

      

     

    How can patients and doctors develop better working relationships? 

      

    As Doctor Sethi so clearly pointed out during his interview, communication is of great importance in establishing rapport and trust between doctor and patient.   As a patient you are your own best advocate.  Be assertive.  Bring in your list of questions to your doctor.  Make sure they are answered before you leave the doctor.  If there is no time to answer them all ask when you can schedule a time to have them answered.  Ask for resources and written information on your condition. 

     

    If for whatever reason things are not working out between you and your doctor, it may be time to look for someone new.  This is your life.  You need to feel at ease and comfortable with your health care provider.  You need to find someone who will work with you and not against you in the process of diagnosis and treatment. 

     

    Now it is your turn.  What do you feel are essential components of fostering a good doctor patient relationship?  Tell us your story!   We want to hear from you.