The doctor-patient relationship is dated back to 5000 years. Back then, in ancient Egypt, it resembled a priest-supplicant type engagement – a relationship involving healers to stage themselves as MAGICIANS who have mastered sickness and death through magic, mysticism and spiritual healing. For the most part, this relationship can be categorised under ‘beneficent paternalism’. Wherein, not only the healers were seen taking responsibility for their patients’ health but procured the right to make health decisions for them. Somehow managing a unique but functional relationship; Functional but not ideal!
On the other hand, In India reputation of doctors were beholden next to GOD and labelled under social and humanitarian line of work – a profession yet to be introduced in the business realms of the service world.
It was a different scenario back in the ancient times, when majority of medicine practitioners would be around much of the rural areas and only a handful were to be found in the high citadels of the towns. This helped these ancient medicine practitioners know personal details and the personas of their subjects, which led to greater trust and round-the-clock availability. With time, when the civilizations evolved and professional structures emerged, these care professionals leveraged their interpersonal relationships with patients and their families for probable diagnosis and explaining treatment protocols. Thereby, ensuring the best care outcomes.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the dynamics of this relationship have evolved to the way we see it today. Where people seemed to be doing better, but the trust and compassion elements have hustled to stay afloat. This relationship strained further with new-generation doctors choosing cities over rural areas for their practice setups. As a result, the two-third of India’s rural population suffered tremendously by being dependent on mere 27% doctors available for medical care in these areas.
Fast forward to the present —
TECH-ADVANCED AGE, BETTER RELATIONSHIPS SCOPE
Although the public & private healthcare systems tried to compensate for low doctor-availability issues in Gramin areas of the country, the limited medical care was not enough to enhance patient satisfaction!
Rapid commercialization and globalisation has influenced every part of this globe, and healthcare is no exception. With the enormous impact of technology in the healthcare industry on it’s whole, the patient behaviour & their expectations, care professional roles, and doctor-patient relationships have all evolved and changed. Meanwhile, the non quantifiable like these have changed enormously in recent times, the technological advancements are still made on the SOPs made in the past, leaving us with a healthcare systems haunted by the ghosts of the pasts & jammed with the growing expectations of its stakeholders.
If played on its merits, care practitioners can leverage technology in their favour by enhancing patient care satisfaction and elevating doctor-patient trust.
For example, Dr Prakash Sharma, a renowned Cardiologist diligently points out the small yet significant changes in doctor visits in the last two decades —
- Patients hate waiting in lines for appointments or bill payments, which is why most of his appointment scheduling has shifted to digital payments and telephone calls before the patient actually arrives.
- Patients living at far away localities in cities prefer primary consultations via video calls and would happily visit the clinic for their second consultation if required.
- Patients are now getting conscious about preventive care and like to evaluate the possibilities of developing a disease via genetic or lifestyle related issues.
- Not all patients prefer an in-person primary doctor often, they are satisfied with Telemedicine consultations or any other health related instruction.
- Overwhelming medical expenses can demotivate patient will to seek medical help; a healthcare practitioner is expected to find ways to decrease the overall medical costs to eliminate the burden of medical bills on doctor-patient relationship.
Dr Prakash Sharma further speaks of the impact of empathic and clear communications. As a doctor, he feels — “It is an indicator of competence and skills. It enables my patients to express their illness and establishes a friendly connection with me which encourages their treatment and medication adherence”
When asked, if it is okay to be friendly with patients?
He nodded ‘YES’. It’s easier to converse with patients when they perceive doctors as friendly. This relationship isn’t just easier to break down a patient’s anxiety levels but allow the care practitioner to make deductions of the factors influencing the overall treatment’s outcome. However, he warns to be wary of the risks of becoming friends with a patient. It could distort a doctor’s judgement. Nevertheless, having a friendly interaction is not against the law and has reported positive outcomes, mostly!
THE FOREVER CHANGED DOCTOR VISITS
Technology is re-structuring the doctor-patient relationship and re-defining their roles in the healthcare system. Bringing in a sustainable method in healthcare, Telemedicine eased-up the consumers and providers responsibilities on a single platform while enabling the healthcare system to reduce the overall care cost. With the increase in virtual healthcare visits, medicos are now being able to facilitate primary care at any time, anywhere with just a few clicks on their mobile phone. Today, digital technology has transformed healthcare enough to provide excellent primary care with the assistance of easy-to-set up, remote satellite clinics. And, assist medicos to insure continued care via homecare healthtech devices.
Currently, digital technologies are revolutionising care delivery by assisting it to be more precise and personalised to an individual’s need. Enhancing value-based care in the years to come.
The common misconception of doctor consultations being merely about treating the disease is outdated and with changing healthcare stakeholders’ behavior, the healthcare world is shifting its gears towards a stress free, sustainable and secured healthcare. And, if that involves simplifying the conventional and tiresome doctor visits, then so be it!