How many of us has been in this kind of situation?
We were feeling bad the whole day with headache, runny nose, sore throat, fever…Just feeling fatigue and miserable and don’t feel like getting out of bed. And finally, after some days passed by, we decided we need to go to the GP to get some consultation. We waited for hours in the waiting room, flipping through some random magazine and then taadaa…Our turn! We were greeted by the doctor and very quickly he/she leaded us into our symptoms and signs and duration of all that occurred, with some measurement of temperature, heart rate, breathing rate and some other vitals… Within maybe 10 minutes, we were out again in the waiting room, waiting for a prescription or maybe a medical cert.
This kind of routine perhaps happens many times everyday in a GP clinic. And then one may ask, how can a doctor comes into conclusion in such a short time? Does the patient feels satisfactory with the consultation? Is it worth the money and time spent by the patient to just get a paper with a ‘diagnosis – to rest for a few days at home’?
Over the past decade, there has been much emphasis being put on the doctor-patient relationship, either primary care or specialist tertiary care. Being a doctor requires not only in-depth medical knowledge and clinical skills, it also requires one to be able to communicate efficiently and built trust and rapport with the patients within just few minutes of consultation. Therefore, it has become increasingly important of the communication and interviewing skills of doctors in today’s world.
A recent article on “Following the clues: Teaching medical students to explore patients’ contexts” in the Patient Education and Counselling Journal, Vol 80 (2010), has shown multi-faceted approaches to increase medical students’ knowledge and skills in identifying contextual issues. Often, the knowledge of a patient’s contextual circumstances, such as responsibilities at home, work or school, beliefs and values, medical history and health concerns are overlook by physicians. And all these clues usually indirectly point towards the final diagnosis and treatment of the patient.
Nevertheless, additional research is still ongoing to find out more effective ways to improve doctor-patient relationship. Regardless of all these, the main role of a physician is still to cure, to comfort and to prevent illnesses, be it a psychological one, or a physical illness. Sometimes, the cure of an ‘illness’ is just an open heart to listen to the patients’ problems and offer some gentle advice. After all, we are all human beings and nobody likes to be alone with their problems. 😉