Relationships Between Patients and Doctors: a Pharmacist's Perspective (Part 2)
Editor's note: This is part 2 of a series. Be sure to check out part 1!
In the first part of the article, we outlined why a good relationship with your doctor is important for patient health outcomes. We also identified 4 main elements of a good working relationship with a doctor. In this part of the article, we will examine factors that impact the quality of the relationship from both the patient and doctor's perspectives.
As a healthcare professional myself, I relate to this factor. While it is not excusable, the fact is, sometimes healthcare professionals are under time pressures. While they wish they could spend more time with patients to establish a rapport, it is not always possible due to the high number of patients and documentation required. Most clinics are recognizing the value of freeing up the doctor’s time so they can spend more time with their patients. The use of technology can also help free up doctor's time.
As a patient, your doctor’s time constraints are largely out of your hands. However, you can help make your appointment time more efficient by having all the information required ready. It may be useful to think of the goals you have for the appointment and jot down your priority topics the night before. Examples of things to consider are:
- Do you have enough refills on your medications? Check with your pharmacy or the quantity written on your medication bottles.
- If your doctor usually asks you about certain numbers (for example, how often do you take your water pill? What is your typical blood pressure?), jot this down on a paper and bring it with you.
- Any new health ailments since the last visit, including hospitalizations.
Patient factors can also negatively affect the quality of the patient-doctor relationship. For example, one study found that 65% of patients over the age of 65 years claim that they are not loyal to a specific clinic or hospital.1 This is particularly more of a concern for the younger generations who are less likely to have a family physician, as they tend to doctor hop.1
I have witnessed this in the pharmacy setting as well; some patients go to a different pharmacy for each refill! While anyone is certainly entitled to seek alternate services, this behavior contributes to poor relationships between healthcare professionals and patients. A trusting relationship is built over time; it does not happen overnight.
Finding the right doctor
Sometimes, despite well-meaning intentions from both you and the doctor, the relationship must end. Just like any relationship, sometimes it simply does not work out.
For example, perhaps you recognize that you want a doctor who speaks your native language and that the language barrier makes it difficult to fully connect and build trust. Perhaps despite your efforts, you continue to find difficulty in trusting your doctor. When this happens, it may be time to sever the relationship and find a new doctor.
Of course, this is not always possible. For example, a shortage of doctors in your city can make it difficult to find a physician accepting new patients. Or perhaps there is only one specialist in your area. When this happens, strengthening relationships with the rest of your healthcare team (nurses, physiotherapists, etc.) can help balance your care.
Have you had a poor doctor-patient relationship that had to end? Share your experiences below!
Have you ever avoided going to the doctor out of fear?