The doctor-patient interaction is the core of clinical medicine. This reality is often forgotten when physicians are frustrated with the system, the crazy bureaucracy and of course, the increasing requirements to document, more to meet billing requirements than to support patient care.
Face-to-face with a patient and their family is a priceless time. These interactions are often at a low point in their lives, and the magic that the physicians bring is more than clinical care, it is that human touch.
The moment the physicians sits down with the patient, they, the patient must be the center of attention. They are seeking a compassionate physician who:
- Communicates well. A physician who understands that the patient is seeking their help shows empathy and listens carefully to the problem. This should show in both what they say, how they say it and their body language.
- Is honest and transparent. Almost all physicians are trustworthy professionals. Complete honesty with a sincere interest in the best possible outcome. Explain everything slowly, clearly and in understandable terms — as if you are talking to a family member who knows nothing about health care.
- Not non-distracted. Be fully present in the conversation. Look at the patient when they are speaking, and you are speaking back – hold yourself back from the keyboard and computer screen. If you have become so adept at computer entry while speaking with patients, ask their permission to enter data as you speak with them and explain what you are doing. Better, perhaps take some notes on paper, patients believe that to listen and take notes requires concentrating on what they are saying.
The demands of practice to often turn the patient interaction into just another name on the schedule experience for the patient. And while they are one of many patients you will see that day, for them you are likely the only physicians they will see that day and they have waited for you. They are deserving of not only your clinical commitment to their care but your professional commitment to their experience. A visit to a physician is not a usual event and will likely be the most memorable thing in their day.
The patient-physician relationship is about trust and a positive experience enhances that sense of trust. Trust is the confidence in the physician to do the best clinically for the patient. Poor patient experiences increase the likelihood of patient complaints, as well as malpractice actions. The brisk, short, distracted physician’s skills are often assumed to be wanting.
It takes some self-discipline for physicians to self-train themselves to put everything out to their mined when fact to face with a patient, the patient must be the center of attention. Hard as it is you must separate yourself from the bureaucracy and byzantine world that you practice within. Fear not, the world of frustration will be there after your patients have been well cared for. And your self-respect for that care, in the mists of the frustrations of practicing today can only help you rise above them.