Selecting a Doctor – From the Patient’s POV

 This was written in repose to a facebook discussion, where we were discussing how doctors and patients relate with each other.

My responses are personal in context and I appreciate that a lot of other patients may not have the same backdrop / context and might prefer a different kind of doctor.
 
1. How would you like your ideal doctor and healthcare system to be ?
 
My ideal doctor is one who doesn’t patronize me, or doesn’t think me incapable of processing complicated information, or making tough choices. The key traits for me are – honesty, non-judgement, and the genuine desire to empower me regarding my health and wellness. 
 
I say this with context for chronic illnesses as well as accidental injuries. Hence, empathy, willingness to answer my questions, and trust on me to want my own well-being, has to come first.
 
2. One’s own health is whose responsibility? Others or own first ?
 
One’s health is one’s responsibility primarily. Unless one is unconscious, or medically / psychiatrically declared incapable of making treatment / consequences, one’s health is one’s own responsibility. This followed by one’s caregivers, and then one’s doctor.
 
3. Is prevention better than cure ?
 
Any day, absolutely, specially in the case of lifestyle illnesses and diseases.
 
4. If there is a negative outcome ( not necessarily due to doctors negligence) how should the patient/ relatives behave with the doctor?
 
Politically correct answer – The doctor is not God. Death happens, accident happens, it’s sad that it happens to be you, but that doesn’t make your doctor a devil.
 
Politically incorrect answer – I have mixed feelings about that. I think there are doctors who deserve to be held accountable.
 
I do blame the incompetent doctors in this case, but I am not the kind of patient / relative who would endorse violence. The kind of nonsense we see in hospitals (specially govt ones), where patients / relatives ill-treat doctors, I find appalling.
 
However, I find it appalling because I generally find violence appalling, and I think anyone executing their duties (irrespective of their profession), to the best of their ability, with the best of intents, and in the existing framework of ethics, should not be persecuted for failure.
Personal Context, if it helps you understand better what I said above:
I have had to suffer incompetent doctors, both in my case and that of my brother’s. Accident injuries, one open wound, another closed. We trusted them to do their best, when they didn’t even do the minimal first aid! This we realized only when we were able to find a second doctor to consult.
 
It took us divine intervention to find ONE good, committed doctor, who went way beyond everything – his professional ethics, his blood relationships, and everything to help my brother. In my case, I didn’t find one. So I bear my cross.
 
5. What are the factors which you keep in mind while choosing your doctor ? Do you think Google reviews are the best way of choosing a doctor ?
 
I think choosing a doctor is like choosing a spouse. I do not want to change doctors unless I NEED TO. I change doctors only when I change cities, or when I really feel very uncomfortable with my current Treating Medical Officer.
 
I use google for accessing details, but I trust my gut more than anything else. For me, my doctor’s tone, their body language, their smile, their eyes, say a lot beyond what they say in words.
 
I am privileged to have had doctor friends even before TLC, so when I choose a new doctor, I usually consult a specific friend or two. I sometimes also run my suggested treatment plans through my medico friends, and through two friends of mine, who stay abreast with latest medical tech. Specially when dealing with a personal medical emergency, or one in the family.
 
I also have a mechanism that I trust – 2 out of 3, or 3-4 out of 5, for cross reference, when making a very complicated, or tricky medical decision. I consult my doctor/second references fast, and I DO NOT endlessly waste time in making my decisions. But I do not decide basis the first opinion either.
 
There is a lot more that can be discussed and shared about this, and I hope to continue writing about this in future.

© Anupama Garg 2020

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