Patients will always expect that doctors treat them with dignity. That’s a given. After all, most of us in the health profession have the best interest in the care for our patients. I always tell people to lower some of their expectations with their physicians. After all, we are not God. Nothing miraculous comes out of our healing. There is an art, a science, and yes, a heart full of compassion and understanding, underlying our passion to heal.
But, every physician-doctor relationship is a two way street. It’s literally a “blood compact”. Which is why there are expectations to be met. So it’s a given that we talk about doctors not coming to their clinic on time. Or making sure that the patient is examined thoroughly. That the diagnostic work-ups are done considering whether the patient needs them or not. And that medications are prescribed because they are needed so he recovers. Our relationship is, uhmmm….complicated.
The other side of the coin is the patient. As doctors, we expect patients to be understanding instead of being abusive. And I say this because there are expectations that are left unsaid. Here’s what we expect from you, my dear patients:
- When you hear the doctor shouting at the top of his voice “NC yan“, it means NO CHARGE. You’re free from the professional fee!! But that doesn’t mean that you abuse the kindness. I have patients that actually ask me to be the godfather of their child thinking that all professional charges are waived. (Really!!) If I waive your fees, you should be (a) grateful and (b) not expect any gift during the birthdays and holidays for my “godchild”. My seeing him/her, for free, is enough. That is why I decline ALL invites to be the godfather of a patient, unless I know the patient personally. For the other patients who are “pro bono” out of friendship, please remember, it’s being done out of being friends and not tit for tat.
- Don’t abuse the kindness. Just because you have access to the mobile number or email address of your physician does not mean you have to be “mental” about each and every concern. I have patients that ask me the craziest and weirdest questions like “I think my son’s ear smells funny. What do you think it is?” or wake you up at 3AM to ask you “my child has had fever for the last month, what do you think it could be since I’ve gone to see 3 other doctors?”. (Seriously??!?!?!?! fever for a month and you didn’t bring your kid to me and decide to wake me up at 3AM because he’s not better?!?!?!) or send an email with a picture of the kid’s butt and asks you to give a provisional diagnosis of the rash (Like, yeah right, Alex Trebeck is this the Tournament of Champions on Jeopardy?!?!?! Uhmmmm….what is….). Remember, I am a doctor – not a psychic!
- I know you have concerns. Especially when there’s a disparity in issues and the advent of spreading of bad or wrong information. The internet, while providing us with a wealth of information is also the main provider of a web of lies. Just because you’ve read it in the news does not make it right. There are a lot of facts that are not taken into consideration. And all that news or political storm is not part of our practice to heal. Medicine is not an exact science. We deal with odds, risks, benefits, ratios, outcomes. Medicine is a dynamic field. What is good for the goose may not necessarily be good for the gander. One man’s medicine may be another man’s poison. For example, Thalidomide was originally developed in 1954 in Germany as a sedative to treat “morning sickness” among pregnant women. It was licensed in 1958 in the UK and made available in the US in 1959. The thalidomide tragedy tells of the story of the side effect of this medicine. Phocomelia (no limbs) among the babies born, was its number one adverse reaction. Over 10,000 babies were affected and more than half died within a few months. Based on data in 2014, there are only less than five hundred victims alive. This drug was taken out of the market three (3) years after it was launched in the UK and the US. While we know more or less what this drug does, it has been resurrected because it’s a beautiful medicine for the treatment of Erythema Nodosum Leprosum (a form of Leprosy). You see, there’s a story to everything. But if you are ignorant and it is not your field of expertise, then I believe some enlightenment is due.
- We are not a hard profession to please. It is not all about the income. While we have families to feed, and that this profession is a form of financial remuneration for services rendered, please remember that we are all kind people. We have many cases where we don’t charge a cent for our consultation (and procedures). Regardless of financial status of the patient, we treat patients not because of the money. But because we know we can make you better. Treat your illness. Make you live longer. If you encounter some physicians who extract you for every little penny, I’m sorry. But we’re not all made that way. Incidentally, just because you pay us our professional fee, does not mean that I will prescribe anything you want under the sun.
- For those that are not familiar, everything has an overhead cost. Things just don’t drop from an airplane and we end up with full supplies. We need to purchase that. And the includes the smallest cotton to the most expensive vaccine. Or from the disposable gloves to the portable ultrasound instrument in the clinic. Then there’s the rent, the water bill, the electricity…oh and did I tell you that my secretaries have to feed their children? Yes my dear. I need to pay them. All. Which is why private practice is not really lucrative unless you have a very good practice. There are days when you’re just dead tired from having to see patients from 9 to 5. The travel time from point A to point B to point C to point D then back to point A alone is deadly. But we do it because there are patients that need us at those pitstops. The first and final pitstop will always be home.
- We have a life. I always tell my medical students and those in training, that the most important thing in this world is not about helping others alone. Martyrdom are for heroes and saints. Ordinary mortals like us need to escape from the humdrum and pain of seeing the sick, the lost, the dying, the forgotten, the depressed, the confused. We cannot listen to the heavy burden of the sick and the needy and not escape from the madness once in a while. The burnout rate is humongous. Those little breaks we take is called recharging. Sometimes we make an effort to relearn so that we can better our craft. When we are not around, don’t take it against us. We are human like you. And we’d like to enjoy our lives as well.
- I know it’s a techie world out there and out of habit, we usually consult google ahead of our health care provider. Which leads to the point that it’s really not nice coming to your doctor brandishing a whole bunch of documents you downloaded from the internet to ask me what I think “Google said!” I don’t mind you reading up on your disease or symptoms. It’s fine with me if you’re a hypochondriac. But whatever you read are information that you can remember so that you know more of less what to discuss with when you see your doctor for a visit. Don’t attempt to treat yourself with what Google says. You may end up a more complicated case, and by the time the doctor gets to see you, will need to spend much more in work-ups and treatment because you decided to check with Google and follow its advice first.
In the same vein that the patient is free to seek a second, third, and even fourth or fifth opinion and disengage relations with the doctor, the doctor too is free from disengaging at anytime from the patient. Despite the disengagement of one or both parties, data privacy is a legal binding rule. No information can be shared without the consent of the patient. Patients are free to ask for their personal medical records, close their engagement with you, and transfer to their doctor of choice.
The next time you get sick and have to see your doctor, make sure you tick all the boxes. You are seeing your health care provider. Not God.