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The Good Doctor

Harriot K. Hunt, an American physician and reformer said: “The prevailing idea is, that the doctor is to cure the disease. It is not so. The doctor and the patient together, are to cure or mitigate the disease. They must be coworkers.”

The doctor and patient relationship is one of the most important in a person’s life. It needs to be based on mutual trust and respect. Nobody goes to visit the doctor because they feel just awesome that day! People seek the counsel of doctors at low points in their lives. Waiting rooms at medical offices are filled with sad and sick people. They are not only looking for a diagnosis and cure but also for a professional who will respectfully understand their special circumstances and tailor a regimen for them. They need a kind heart and a sympathetic ear…and a diagnosis as well as a cure!

Once a patient enters into a doctor’s office, it seems that all control is taken from their hands and transferred to the doctor. The patient understands this… most of the time, but the doctors, at times, seem unaware of the absolute hope placed in them by these strangers in their offices.

Most patients feel that doctors don’t listen to them. They feel, at times, that they are cut off mid-sentence and are made to hurry through their history. A lot of times doctors seem to make up their mind about the diagnosis in the first 30 seconds and then disregard everything else the patient has to say. This makes the patient, who is already in a vulnerable state, feel even worse. Everybody understands that time is valuable, but the doctor’s time is no more or no less valuable than the patient’s. The doctor is providing a service for which there is a fee. For the fee some doctors are known to charge, they should pick up their patients from their homes, treat them to a five-star dinner, diagnose them, prescribe medication and then drive them back home!

To be fair, some patients also seem to have a hard time staying on track as far as their symptoms go. They seem to confuse the office visit with a social call and want to talk about every experience they have had since birth. Doctors do appreciate a comprehensive history but they are not looking for patients memoirs! I feel the best way for a patient to prepare for a doctor’s visit is to have their symptoms, as well as any questions they might have, already written down. In this way not only will patients be able to remember important details, but they will be able to provide doctors with all the information without wasting time.

Doctors should explain every diagnosis, treatment and prescribed test to the patient. There is nothing in medical science that cannot be explained in layman’s terms for consumption by all. Some doctors find this to be a waste of time and feel that once they have diagnosed and scribbled indecipherable prescriptions on a pad, they should move on to the next moneymaker..oops I mean patient. It is important to understand that the more you demystify the disease and explain the treatment, the more the patient is liable to adhere to the regimen. It is important that patients get their information from their treating physicians rather than Googling it when they get home and then dying of fright at the (mis)information they come across on the web.

I can understand that a doctor’s work can become tedious and repetitious. At times you can see their eyes glaze over when you (unfortunately) are the thirtieth patient they are seeing that day. But, if the doctor has made the decision to have an 18 hour work day then he/she owes it to his or her patients to give them 100% attention. Inattention is one of the most egregious forms of disrespect a doctor can show a patient. And, if a patient catches their doctor updating their Facebook status or twitter feed while they are trying to explain how after-dinner gases are messing with their higher brain functions, it is time to move on! Run, don’t walk!

There was a time when the truly gifted physicians were those who not only cared but also suffered with their patients. It is understandable that like all other professions, the medical profession has changed also. But compassion and respect are attributes that enhance a healer and should never be forgotten.

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