A doctor is on a usual workday, a patient comes and complains of joint pain, stiffness, tenderness and some other classic symptoms of arthritis. S/he orders an x-ray to confirm it and prescribe the medications. Do you think that was all the doctor needed to do?
He just treated the disease, but what about the patient? The doctor never even got a chance to look at that fellow properly, didn’t even ask about his profession, let alone his family. Is there any need for that? What are we doing wrong here…
As Dr. William Osler, the co-founder of Johns Hopkins hospital said
” there is a tendency among young men about hospitals to study the cases, not the patients,
and in the interest, they take in the disease lose sight of the individual. Strive against this.”
Dr. William was right, as we doctors are religiously following our textbooks, the regular observation, auscultation, and palpation before deciding the medications or the surgical intervention but what our textbooks didn’t teach us is, talking and building a relationship with our patients.
The diagnosis is our philosopher’s stone to find, once we get that, we forget that there is a whole chamber of secrets in the form of a whole patient.
What is the difference between treating a disease and a patient?
When a doctor treats the patient, he talks to them like a normal person would, he makes the patient feel cared and in safe hands. He attains the patient’s vote of confidence and become his/her doctor.
On the other hand, if a doctor is treating just the disease, he observes the symptoms, reach to a diagnosis and prescribe treatment. That’s it like a medical robot would do.
How does it affect the medical care?
- More accurate decision making – Patient’s need and priorities can guide a doctor’s treatment, for example, if a doctor is treating a spinal fracture case then talking to a patient and knowing about his preferences will let an orthopedic surgeon decide which surgery is the best one for the patient. As giving a spinal fusion surgery to a gymnast will not only ruin his career but also make him unhappy for life.
- Better patient recovery – It’s a doctor’s job to make the patient deal with the disease and the process. The oncologists and the psychiatrist know this the most. As talking to a cancer patient about the disease, the treatment options, and the expected outcome is a bare necessity for the patient’s recovery.
- Accurate diagnosis – Patient will give you the real feedback and the real symptoms other than just the main ones. Only and only if you will talk to the patient as a normal human being first. Make him feel that he will be listened to.
- To Choose the correct line of Treatment – If a doctor skips the history, he will skip the future too. Most of the times, talking to the patient will give him some important piece of information for the diagnosis. A correct diagnosis will lead to the correct line of treatment too.
What should be done?
- Talk about the lifestyle of the patient, give them advice about their eating habits and other precautions to be taken. You will receive an amazing recovery. For example, an Acne patient can also be a depressed patient. You won’t be able to treat the acne until you convince them that it’s going to take time but it will be alright and what they should do to distract themselves from the mirror and what positive measures can be taken.
- By taking eyes off our computer and talking to the human who happens to be your patient and open your heart with empathy. Listen to the patient, who is your one and only teacher.
- If the doctor will be happy, s/he will treat better. So get rest whenever needed, do yoga, exercises, devote time to the family and more importantly take some time out for yourself. As you will need some patience as well as empathy to listen to every patient.
- There is a difference between prescribing meds and talking as a caregiver. Being concerned with the patient doesn’t make one an emotional doctor, it makes us human! Also, it will improve the patient’s quality of life. So let’s take a step ahead and talk to the family or the caregiver of the patient to ensure a speedy recovery.
- Understand the power of touch and use it whenever necessary.
- Every doctor tries their level best to treat a patient. One more thing that you can do is “tell them that!” As this will make the whole difference!
“The good physician treats the disease, the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”- Sir William Osler.
Let’s strive to be in the great category!
P.S – If your doctor does all the above things, then you have got an amazing doctor. It’s your job to tell that to your doctor too.
Good words go a long way!
Let’s pray to have empathy for one and all.
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