*A doctor walks into the waiting room and takes a look at his patients wife*

Doctor: “Hey, your wife doesn’t look good.”

Patient: “Yeah, but she is a great cook and makes a lot of money.”


Yes, yes. The joke is old. But so is the problem – classic miscommunication between doctors and patients. They say one thing and you hear something else.

How many times have we all pretended to understand what our doctor has told us about our illness and went back home with very little information on our diagnosis? All those lymphosarcoma of the intestines, lipido hydrovascular sinusitis, and gastrotrumpicular electionitis sound really serious. We pacify ourselves by saying—“He must know what he is doing. I just need to take my medicines and I will be fine.”

This isn’t true only for the ones with limited medical knowledge. Despite having an academic background in medicine and working in the healthcare industry for a while, I jumped in my own seat when my sister’s ENT specialist told me she has “dysfunctional breathing due to swollen turbinates”.

It is not easy; especially when you really want to know what is wrong with you and the ones you care for.

 

So the question is—why do we feel this way? Why do we settle for less information from our doctor or don’t probe enough?

  1. Is it because we don’t want to sound uneducated in general?
  2. Is it because the doctor is really busy and “I shan’t waste their time by asking silly questions”?
  3. Or is it because we believe the doctor isn’t patient enough to break it down to us in layman’s terms?

It could be none or all of the above. But most of it is a matter of how much do we consider ourselves in charge during the course of our own treatment. 

 

The healthcare industry, especially on the side of doctors and hospitals is now trying to get more focused on patient-centric care as per the National Health Policy announced earlier this year by the Indian government. Aimed at providing free and assured healthcare services to all, the policy stresses on overall wellness and the importance of preventive healthcare that must seek to reduce out-of-pocket expenditure.

There is one term encompassing this concept – patient empowerment. Simply put, it means that health is every citizen’s right. It would be safe to assume that a patient would feel empowered to make decision about her own health when she feels informed and sufficiently educated about her treatment.

 

In today’s day and age, a patient may not view their doctor as the sole authority when it comes to their health. Any patient with access to the Internet would Google his condition. But many cannot identify authentic websites and fail to understand that the pursuit of finding out more about symptoms and ailments could do more harm than good.

A friend of mine once said – “I had pain in my toe nail and when I looked up my symptoms online, I got four different cancers to choose from.”

In this process of interconnected healthcare, doctors and providers pose the challenge of acting as guides to ensure every patient that leaves their clinic should be powered with right information to support their right to information.

 

Enter – Website Prescriptions

In a Medscape article, Dr Robert Bell of the University of California told Reuters,

“Proactive physicians must provide ‘website prescriptions’ that identify accurate, authoritative websites related to the medical condition in question. Physicians should not assume that their patients will be able to tell the difference between a quality website and one that promulgates ‘junk science’ and other kinds of unsupported claims.”

As we know, it takes two to tango. The onus of making quality healthcare sustainable, is now on both, patients as well as doctors. So ask nicely, ask well, and browse safe!

Tanvi Joshi is the sub-editor of Connected Health Quarterly. As a marketing and communications professional at she is making her way through the global healthcare industry.


Sources:

  1. What is National Health Policy 2017: Everything you need to know – Indian Express http://indianexpress.com/article/what-is/what-is-national-health-policy-2017-4574585/
  2. Reasons for and predictors of patients’ online health information seeking following a medical appointment. Na Li Sharon Orrange Richard L Kravitz Robert A Bell https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/31/5/550/536987/Reasons-for-and-predictors-of-patients-online