Every day we talk about rapidly changing business dynamics, increasing disposable income, growing middle class, internet, more knowledge, info available at fingertip. Every industry does its impact analysis and changes its positioning, marketing strategy, pricing. Change is inevitable and the options are clear – change or perish. However, there is one such industry where this change is very much required yet not happening with that pace. That is – medical industry. I will clarify my statement here – the change is happening but at a slower pace. Let me give some practical examples here.
A patient is detected with an indication and he visits a doctor. What factors determine that if he will come out of the doctor’s chamber satisfied or stressed? What can the doctor do in those 10-15 minutes to satisfy his customer?
We need to understand that when a patient comes to a doctor, he comes for a treatment – to get relieved of the problem he is suffering from. Therefore, the first thing required is listening and assurance. The doctor should first listen to the patient carefully irrespective of how nonsense he talks. Every human being is different and the way of expression of each individual is different too. Some patients will spend more time describing their sufferings than others. Doctor needs to take the crux out of it without spending too much of time. But a doctor that interrupts the anxious patient in between creates a feeling in the mind of the patient that he could not explain his problem to the doctor and therefore the treatment might not be correct. So, the assurance which is needed most by the patient is now no longer there. The patient is still anxious and feels dissatisfied with the first meeting.
Assurance is a big thing indeed. Think about a doctor that tells you “Don’t worry; I have understood your problem. It happens with many people. If you take your medicines regularly, you will be fine in 2 weeks”. And then think about another doctor who tells you “Take this medicine for 2 weeks and come after that”. Sounds different? Yes, they are. In the second part, the assurance is missing.
The next part is communication. Patients are told to take their antibiotics but patients are not told that if they miss one dose in between – what will be the impact and what should be the corrective measures. There are plenty of studies in the market that shows that dose compliance is often poor because the communication is not clear. Which medicine to take is important but how to take the medicine is important too. Preparation of syrups where the medicine is to be mixed with water requires guidance. The gap in communication leading to poor drug compliance is also supported by a study conducted by WHO.
We need to understand that assurance, communication and listening are also part of the treatment. A patient with a great mental strength is much more able to fight the disease compared to a patient who has lost the hope.
The fourth dimension is information. Many patients search in the internet about their symptoms and come to a possible conclusion before they come to the doctor. I will not say this is always a good practice because internet often mentions possibilities that are good enough to scare the patient even more. But my point was availability of information. These patients expect the doctor to explain what has happened to them. Doctors also need to understand this and spend some time explaining about the symptom, its cause and possible treatment. A doctor not entertaining this information availability often creates confusion in the patient’s mind. Instead, discussion on the topic and few trends often creates respect in the mind of the patient about the doctor and also helps to develop relationship.
My intention is not to blame anyone here but to emphasize that the change is now very much required. The medical fraternity understands this and there are doctors who have implemented these best practices. But to ensure it across all places, I believe what is required most is education. There should ideally be a mandatory subject on patient handling or how to deal with the emotional side of the patients. I don’t have enough information on if such course or subject already exists and this is absolutely my personal opinion to get this soft skills instilled mandatorily in each medical student. However, I strongly believe that with these four dimensions implemented in real life practice, wellness will be much more beyond therapy.