With time passing and despite all the advancements in the medical field, a problematic gap might still exists between doctors and patients which is interfering in the quality of healthcare provided. There was a time when a patient used to blindly follow any prescription or diagnosis given by his healthcare provider. Is the situation still the same? Is patients’ trust in the healthcare system compromised by few incidences? Are Medical errors increasing? These gaps would be minimized if few factors are dealt with carefully.
1- Language barriers: In many countries, healthcare establishments hire professionals from different backgrounds. When the doctor, coming from the Far East or Europe, treats patients whose native language is Arabic, miscommunications will surely occur. This might jeopardize patient’s life. Healthcare professionals should be able to speak and understand the mother language of the country where they are working. From one side, the healthcare professional should understand clearly what the patient is saying: how he is feeling, what are his symptoms,… From another side, he should be able to clearly communicate to the patient the answers to the raised questions, his diagnosis and different treatment plans. No miscommunications are allowed when it comes to the life of a patient.
2- Religion and Culture: Patients do not all have the same religious beliefs, cultural background, or social norms. The doctor should understand the religious background of a patient. In some beliefs, certain practices might affect the choice of the chosen treatment. For example, a doctor cannot ask his Muslim patient to have several cups of red wine per week for a healthy heart. From another angle, cultural norms have to be respected or dealt-with properly. Each sub-population has its own habits that has been followed for so long. It is the responsibility of the doctor to tackle these habits (or at least the ones that might affect the patient’s health status) and properly make the necessary changes without creating a whole new culture. All it needs is few adjustments, well communicated, while keeping the identity of the patient highly respected..
3- Misconceptions: A doctor should give his time to the patient in order to clear up any misconception related to the diagnosis or treatment plan. A patient with a load of ‘wrong knowledge’ tends to sabotage the course of care by making changes to the proposed treatment. It is the responsibility of the doctor to make sure that the patient knows what he has to do: which medicines he needs to take, proper time, proper dosage…
4- Ignorance & curiosity of patient: A healthcare professional should keep in mind that every patient is worried about his health and wants to understand how bad his/her sickness might be. Patients should understand clearly and fully the cause of their sickness, what they should do to pitch in the care and why/how the treatment plan will help. A well-informed patient tends to reach better health outcomes than one in obscurity.
5- Trust: When a patient first visits a doctor or a hospital, his recurring concern would be about the integrity of the healthcare professional and his skills. A doctor should know how to make the patient feel safe, especially when it comes to first-timers. A patient should trust his doctor otherwise he will not follow the proposed treatment plan, which will delay the course of treatment and have a negative impact on his health.
6- Behaviors: A doctor should respect his patient: welcome him cordially, listen respectfully to his needs and fears, and walk him through the treatment plan while valuing the codes of conduct. Patients don’t feel at ease when the doctor doesn’t smile, keeps checking his watch, doesn’t make eye contact with them, doesn’t answer their questions, or is in a hurry to take the next appointment.
7- Collaboration: Taking care of a patient requires, at some instances, a collaborative effort between several departments and/or several professionals. Each party should work as a team to take the best decisions while only focusing on the well-being of the patient. A patient’s health is not a battlefield that will yield a proud winner! The only winner should be the patient. So, ego aside, doctors should be open to suggestions, be very flexible, and admit when they might be wrong.
8- Family involvement: When was the last time a patient visited his healthcare professional alone? Family members are present most of the time during a consultation. So, when a statement is given, it is usually assessed by whoever is present at the clinic. When too many people are involved, the patient will no longer be the center of attention for the healthcare giver.
The doctor should focus on his patient!
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