If you follow this blog regularly, you know that my last four or five posts have had to do with improving communication with your primary care provider and his or her staff. I have reviewed ways to become a more savvy communicator as a patient, and how to maximize your relationships with the staff who field your calls, questions and requests.
Whether your primary care provider is a physician, nurse practitioner, physician's assistant or other healthcare professional, communication and mutual respect are key. You both need to work together as a team in order to make the most of your healthcare, and that teamwork is indeed undermined by anything that gets in the way of respect and communication.
The Old Days.....and the New Days
Back in the old days, people treated doctors like God. The doctor was seen by previous generations as an omnipotent and trusted professional whose word was basically sacrosanct. Nobody questioned what a doctor said, and it was basically heresy to go against doctor's orders.
In the 21st century, patients and healthcare consumers are much more savvy, and they have a great deal more health and scientific information at their fingertips (for better or worse). Patients also expect not to be treated like children whose job it is to follow the doctor's orders, but rather as an important member of the team.
Taking these changes into consideration, patients must then develop much more sophisiticated ways of communicating with their medical providers, and those medical providers must accept that 21st-century patients want to be directly involved in their care.
In the end, it all comes down to respect, just like the old song said. Medical providers and patients must work together in a climate of mutual respect, with the patient being on an equal playing field with the provider.
Savvy patients (respectfully) question the decisions that their providers make, ask probing questions in order to learn more, and expect their provider to listen to and honor their opinions. Healthcare consumers also expect doctors and other medical providers to consider their patients' fears, concerns, psychosocial issues, and cultural/religious practices that relate to their overall plan of care.
Without mutual respect, communication breaks down, the treatment plan is ineffectual, medical providers become frustrated, and patients may abandon the plan altogether. Providers listen, patients listen, and all parties come to the table with honesty, integrity, respect, and a vision and plan to work together for the ultimate benefit of the patient and his or her health.
Yes, respect is the foundation of successful relationships between medical providers and patients, and the nurturing of that respect is in the best interest of all concerned.