Cyber Week

The saying “Vaidyo Narayano Hari” which translates to “Doctor is equal to God” was the attitude of society towards doctors a few decades ago. It is really sad to note that the relationship between a doctor and his patients — which is a vital part of health care — has deteriorated in the present time.

This change in the doctor-patient relationship is, however, not an overnight phenomenon. The way medicine was practiced four decades ago and now has undergone a transformation.  In the past, the family physician was not only a doctor, but also a friend, philosopher, and guide.  Many generations of the family consulted him and looked upon him as a figure of authority. His {advice} was valued and taken as the Gospel truth. But not anymore! Today, being the day of specialisation, you have a doctor for every organ of the body. Technology has also improved so much that we can come to a definitive diagnosis with the aid of specialised diagnostic machines.

Therefore, a number of tests are a must to “rule in” or “rule out” a disease. An early and accurate diagnosis is extremely important as it helps the doctor to establish a prognosis for the patient and decide on an appropriate treatment or management plan. Patients however, especially those with insurance, worry about the unnecessary and expensive tests that are required to be done before any surgery or procedure.  What they need to realise is that the insurance companies usually have a cap on the rates we charge and the investigations we do.

The doctor, on the other hand, is constantly worried about missing something and being sued later. Since the doctor is a specialist in his/her field, he/she may also have to get an opinion regarding other organs from different specialists. So with all these tests and references, it is likely that the patient will suspect the doctor and his motives. In reality, no patient goes to a doctor with a mindset to sue him and no doctor will ever wilfully do anything to harm a patient. A doctor will always strive to achieve perfection and do his/her best to alleviate the pain of patients. Patients must realise that there is a thin line between a complication and negligence.

A complication following a procedure after due care is an accepted norm. But if the doctor has been negligent, then he/she will definitely have to face the consequence. Patients have easier access to information about health and are taking more of an interest in managing their own health conditions, with the {support} of their doctor. They desire the best course of treatment and are more involved in making decisions about choices of healthcare. With healthcare becoming more personalised and patient-centered, the doctor-patient relationship has also become more evenly balanced. In this scenario, the best way out will be for the doctor to be totally transparent with the patient at every stage.

Constant communication is the cornerstone in any relationship and can help rebuild the bridge of trust between the patient and the doctor. The doctors must take the patient into confidence at every step. Patients who communicate effectively with their doctors receive quality information about their disease and how to manage it. This builds up their trust and confidence in their doctor. A strong relationship between the doctor and patient is not only therapeutic; it also helps the doctor and the patient attain the mutual goal of quality healthcare. I am sure that with constant communication, we could regain the confidence and respect of our patients.

Dr K Bhujang Shetty, Chairman & Managing Director, Narayana Nethralaya


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