Originally on 5 Things I Learned – February 15, 2011 (after a particularly long day at the doctor’s office)
1. Patience is required.
Over the past few months I’ve had to visit my doctor quite a lot and the waiting can be really frustrating. I’d wait for a minimum of 30 minutes (and so far a maximum of 2 hours) to speak with my doctor for a minimum of 4 minutes (and so far a maximum of 15 minutes). I’m sure you’ve experienced the same.
Having patients wait is the most efficient from the doctor’s perspective. Unlike business meetings, you can’t peg down how long a specific doctor’s appointment will be. Sometimes a visit can last 2-3 minutes-just a quick “how are you-I’m feeling good-Come see me next week” kinda conversation with your doctor. Or it can take longer (that usually means there’s something seriously wrong with the patient or the patient is being inquisitive or difficult.) The point is, for the doctor-you don’t really know what to expect until the patient gets there and starts talking. So having patients be patient, sorry for the pun, is the most efficient for the doctor. Note that, the doctor actually wants to speed things along. S/he wants to accommodate more patients in a day as that would mean more consultation fees.
The clinic I go to, Healthway Shangri-la Mall has a system in place…that at least makes waiting more palatable. There’s a numbering system so you sort of have an idea of when you will be called. They also SMS you when the doctor is in, etc. But waiting anywhere from 10mins to 2 hours is inevitable.
So I started thinking of a system where both doctors and patients are happy. Imagine this:
- Register to see your doctor. This can be done online 24 hours before the doctors’ consultation schedule. Put in the necessary personal info if its your 1st time or just pull up your records if your a regular patient. It’s important that the patient has a functioning mobile number.
- The system sends an SMS to the patient 2 hours before the doctors’ consultation schedule to advise the patient a) the doctor is coming and b) what number they are and around what time they should be at the doctors’. It asks the patient to confirm via SMS that they will be visiting the doctor.
- Patient #1, #2 and #3 should be at the doctors’ when consultation time starts. The doctor sees him/her – pulls up the patient’s records on the computer. This signals the system that the appointment has begun and prompts the system to send an SMS to Patient #4 that the doctor is seeing Patient #1 and that Patient #4 should be at the doctors’ in 15 minutes or something like that. When it’s Patient #2′s turn, Patient #5 is alerted, and so on.
It isn’t a perfect system (I just thought of this as I was waiting for the doctor earlier) but I’m sure there’s a way to leverage SMS technology to make visiting the doctor more time efficient than it currently is.
Another reason why patience is necessary – sometimes the effects of treatment (or even the treatment itself) takes some time. You might even feel worse before feeling better.
2. The more data you supply the doctor, the better.
People avoid medical check-ups and visiting the doctors under the illusion that ‘what I don’t know won’t hurt me.’ But when it comes to health this is more than just an illusion it is dangerous. However, even when patients are with a doctor, they’d rather be vague (and even lie) about what’s going on with them.
Do you know the show House? The main protagonist, Dr. Greggory House, an expert diagnostician, believes that patients (and their families) lie all the time. Thus as a doctor and diagnostician, if you depend on what the patient tell you-the lies, you won’t be able to get to the root of the problem.
Take note (literally, write it on paper) of what you are feeling, how often, how severe, where exactly, etc. anything that has to do with your body and what’s wrong with it so you can give your doctor some data. It helps him/her diagnose you faster.
Don’t hold back information about yourself – your addictions, your lifestyle, etc. Something minor to you may greatly affect your treatment.
3. Look for a doctor you are comfortable talking to.
If you can’t talk to your doctor then it’s going to be hard for him/her to monitor your health or address your health problems. You need to be able to tell him/her things that are weird, yucky, personal - what’s going on with your body (and sometimes even your mind).
You need to be comfortable asking the questions you need to ask. There is no such things as a dumb question. Your doctor should answer them. If you don’t ask questions, your doctor will assume you understand whatever he/she said.
On the flip side, the doctor’s demeanor should be one you are comfortable with, whether its business-like or friendly. If you are intimidated by your doctor, it will be very difficult to establish a good relationship.
4. A doctor is a profession.
Doctor’s work as doctors. It is thier income earning activity. Even for the most generous and self-sacrificing of doctors have to put food on the table. The most common way they earn is through consultation fees. They make you see them routinely for check-ups or follow-ups so that they earn consultation fees every time you visit them. If the doctor can manage it, s/he will see you more often than really necessary. In my experience, the doctor assumed that because I had a company health card all my visits were company paid. So she had me come see her more often than what was really necessary. But I was paying for them…at one point two-thirds of my salary for the month went to paying the doctor and the tests.
Cash strapped patients shouldn’t be shy about expressing their difficulties with the doctor. They are human, they know financial and health troubles. Besides, if you find that your doctor is overly concerned about the ‘money’ then he/she may not be the best doctor for you.
5. Doctors appreciate appreciation.
Being a doctor is more than just being able to identify the problem and knowing how to and being able to solve it. Doctors endeavor to be emphatic to their patients to rejoice in their good health and to provide strength when there are health problems. Express your appreciation to your doctor – kind words, asking “How are you?” or “How’s your day so far?”, wishing them well, saying “Thank You!”…etc. It matters to them