LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL


Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my life...in vain!
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hey Doctor! Why are you in a hurry? (Part-II)


I was having a ‘dull’ headache for the past few weeks. People suggested me to reduce my use of laptop and I did that. The head ache coupled with the ‘writer’s block’ is the reason for not writing any blog posts in the month of June. I met a physician and a series of specialists to find out the cause of the headache. The headache is reduced considerably now. But the ordeal with doctors made me think about why and how some of them are frantic to reap as much within their ‘allotted time’. I wrote about this couple of years back also. (Given at the end of this article)

I used to ask my doctor-wife why she spent so much time with each patient. She said, ‘Half of the pains and agonies of patients and the consequent physical disorders can be solved if the doctor patiently listened to them and talked to them’. I found it right as many of her patients showered praises for the time she spent with them in understanding their problem and the way she gave them advice.

Let me mention about one of the specialists I met at Delhi. Because there is no system of ‘attendant’ (as part of the cost-cutting measure) in the internationally rated super-specialty hospital, the specialist himself comes out to call each patient to his chamber. Before I sat on the chair, the doctor asked me the problem. Before I completed two sentences, he asked me to open my mouth. While I opened the mouth, he was checking the sms in his cell phone. He asked me to move my eyes to left, right, up and down. While I was sincerely doing that, he was busy writing my name in the prescription sheet. I thought he will ask me questions like which time of the day or night I get the headache, since when I am having this problem, which part of the head throws up the pain, what is my health history, what is my routine etc. He never asked anything. He didn’t check my BP or pulse.  He said there is no serious problem, but suggested an MRI. He suddenly got up and opened the door for me to get out so that I won’t waste his time asking any questions.

There was a long line of persons for the MRI. Most have booked many days in advance to get a slot. After spending a huge sum, I got the report along with the film and the CD. When I went to show that to the specialist, he didn’t look at the film or CD and concluded that everything is fine by just seeing the brief report.

Photo: dreamstime.com

Doctors’ time is very valuable. At the same time, is it unreasonable for patients to expect the doctor to spend a reasonable time with them in understanding the ailment as perceived by the patient and explain the medical reasons and remedies? After all, he has paid huge consultation fee and also spent money and time for travel to reach the hospital and waited couple of hours to meet the doctor.

Fixing a minimum time for consultation may not be practical. But doctors should not forget the professional ethics and underestimate the service expected from them in this divine profession.

Article written by me on Dec 27, 2009 is given below.

Hey Doctor! Why are you in a hurry?

  One profession where every millisecond matters is the medical profession. Doctors run against time, saving millions of lives. They can afford only very little sleep, little socializing and leisure. Commitment to work and the pressure from the organization force them to be in their coats for almost 18 hours a day. Society should thank not only them, but also their spouses and children for letting them away from home. But what worries us is that many of these doctors are too much in a hurry, creating anxious and depressing moments for patients and their relatives.
Recently, I read about a bereaved wife who went through an ordeal in a hospital. She was beside her ailing husband for several days. They were a well-educated couple with a fair social standing. Husband was hospitalized with a chest pain. The doctor visited their room just for a minute and never found time to interact with the patient’s wife. Enquiries and doubts from the wife and children got monosyllabic answers. The elderly husband, not fit enough for a surgery, was made to undergo a heart bypass. He suffered a heart attack and died even as the surgery was being performed. The woman believes that her husband would have lived on for many more years, if not for the negligence of a busy doctor.
When at least a smile can give a healing touch, some doctors portray themselves as busy and restless, as if that symbolizes the genius of their rare breed. It is not a very pleasant experience to be in a hospital, either as a patient or as a visitor, even if the hospital is endowed with the most-modern ‘five star’ facilities. All patients and their relatives go through depressing moments because of the pain their loved ones going through, anxiety, financial strain, loneliness and helplessness. They obviously look for empathy, transparency, concern and gentleness from the hospital management, staff and doctors. But, in general, hospitals are perceived as establishments with the sole motive of making money through a concerted effort of various stakeholders – the management, doctors, and pharma, medical, diagnostic and insurance companies. Of course, hospitals do need money to provide quality service. But what upsets patients and their relatives is a sheer lack of transparency and absence of communication on pros and cons of different options.
Doctors don’t have the time to explain. Managements are keen to collect advances before even the patient is admitted. Other staff members are too ill-informed to guide patients or give suggestions. Social workers, counselors or relation experts are either non-existent or perform their roles superficially and mechanically. All these definitely affect the healing process.
It is imperative to train the doctors on professional ethics, emotional intelligence and communication intelligence. It is also necessary to inculcate a change in their mindset and apprise them of the need for empathy in a hospital setting. Doctors should understand that patients and their relatives put their trust only on them and not on the management, staff, diagnostic service providers or counselors. They need to spend more time with patients and their relatives and give that much-needed human touch that is lacking in many hospitals.
 Medical Council of India (the self-regulating body)- Are you hearing? Or, are you waiting for another  statutory regulatory authority to be established?

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                                             © Sibichen K Mathew

3 comments:

  1. Tell me about it :) I am afraid that the only way we are going to get all that is if we legislate for it AND if the judicial process in the country works faster than it does. For a start, this practice of not sharing all medical records with the patient - including all the reports like MRI etc that they pay through the nose for - should be made illegal. If the reports are not automatically given to the patient, it should be treated as deficiency in service. As it stands, you pay hefty sums and have to beg for your own reports even where you need to shift the treatment to another city for your own reasons - forget using them to get a second opinion.

    The process of becoming litigious as in the US, makes medical treatment very expensive - since medical care centers of all sizes need to build in costs related to possible litigation BUT the other option of self-regulation is failing miserably in rendering the minimal quality of service.

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  2. You are right Suresh. As self-regulation has been proved to be a failure in achieving the desired objectives, a minimal statutory intervention doesn't do any harm. The problem is not with the rules, but an efficient agency that effectively monitor the compliance.

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  3. It took me 25 years to find a doctor who takes minimum 20 minutes with each patient: pleasant, patient in listening, checking and explaining to the patient what the problem is and what the medicine is for. No MRI, no scan, no tests at all. I see him as someone who freed my head from pain, thereby giving me a normal life.

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