Patients need good doctors, because only good doctors make the care of their patient a top concern. Particularly in times of high stress and fast paced lives, it is necessary to have a sound medical advice which only a doctor can give. The Lifestyle Journalist Gaurav Goswami explains the finer details of, how to find out, whether your doctor is trustworthy or not.
Important word is ‘trust’
Patients must be able to trust the doctor with their life. Enhancing the accuracy of the diagnosis and increasing the patient’s knowledge about the disease all come with good relationship between the patient and the doctor. A trustworthy doctor (from the point of view of the patient)is the one who will not judge them! For instance, for an obese patient a trustworthy doctor is one ‘who would not judge him based on his weight’ instead help him get rid of the problem with compassion and understanding of his body mechanics!
Why trust is important?
This trust is imperative because a sick patient is in a vulnerable situation, this may be, emotional, physical, spiritual or even a financial situation. So it becomes important that patients reach out to trustworthy doctors who do not take advantage of them. Another point is the imbalance of knowledge and power, between the patient and doctor. Since the doctor obviously holds the change when someone is unwell, it is doubly important that patient goes to a doctor he or she trusts. It is often said, ‘trust in the healer is essential to healing itself.’
Good communication is the main factor in building the patient-doctor trust. Patient listening, empathy and paying attention to the patient’s verbal and non-verbal communication needs to be understood by the doctor. While a patient is narrating his case history, a doctor will know very well of what is going on inside the patient’s mind and body. Hence, the doctor has a duty to hear all which the patient has to say calmly without interrupting, and then share a portion of his knowledge with the patient. The doctor must carefully address the questions and doubts of the patient. And, the doctor must give the patient the choice of taking up appropriate treatment options. Because how a doctor deals with a patient plays a huge role in determining if the concerned doctor is trustworthy or not!
Signs of a trustworthy doctor
Listening to the patient is the most important courtesy of a doctor. So it is imperative that patient looks for doctor who is responsive to them and pays attention to all of their queries, both important and otherwise. A trustworthy doctor does not create unnecessary fear and panic in a patient. Doctor does not pretend to know everything; in fact there are times when doctor does not know the exact cause of a particular illness. They don’t demand additional treatment upon the patient’s request. A trustworthy doctor is one whom a patient can trust and be comfortable with. A trustworthy doctor does not impose their ideas on their patients, rather like to lead the patients into a healthy discussion whenever there is a need to change the medication or some difficult procedure is required. Good doctors genuinely care about the patient’s well-being (and not just treat it as their professional liability!), gives more attention to the patient’s symptoms and also checks on if the treatment is working or not. If for some reason the treatment is not bringing the desired results, then the doctor looks into the problem and prescribes again till the correct results are obtained or recommends the patient to another doctor.
Why trusting is difficult?
If trust is such an important aspect between a patient and a doctor, then why it is hard for patients to completely trust their doctors. Here are some probable reasons…First, trust as a sociological construct refers to people’s expectation, for goodwill and competence. Although, past experiences and other form of knowledge influence the degree of current trust that a patient shows in a doctor. Second, trust have many different forms; expectant or presumption trust refers to the predisposition a patient brings to a first encounter with a doctor, while experimental trust develops with knowledge of the one trusted over time. And identification trust is based on a sense of shared values. So communicating openly demonstrates respect, allows the patient to judge motivates and identify any shared value and provides a means for patient to judge the doctor. Expectant trust can be influenced by trust in general, through previous experiences, and second handknowledge. Third, perceptions, beliefs and expectations are directed towards a doctor and are not merely the outcome a patient hopes will occur. Thus the statement, ‘I trust my doctor to take care of my illnesses’ is not a belief about the care, but is about the doctor! There is another crucial point; studies have shown that women largely prefer seeing female doctors, especially when it comes to their reproductive health care. In some cases, this is because the women patients are more comfortable with a person of the same gender, but other researchers have shown that women want to be treated by women doctors because of the belief that women are better communicators!
The word ‘doctor’ is derived from the Latin word for ‘teacher.’ So a patient should try to choose a provider who is willing, is able to communicate decently and give explanation about their illness and the treatment that they are undergoing. It has been put quite aptly by someone ‘A good doctor is not only determined by qualification alone, but also by the doctor’s means of interacting with the patient and the doctor’s expertise.’ So true!