What do patients want?

Posted: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 | Posted by Debajyoti Datta |

Some times I wonder what do patients want? Do they want to be treated by a compassionate but average doctor or an excellent but obnoxious doctor?

It’s a simple enough question but it does not seem to have a simple answer. To me it depends on my illness. Let us consider that I have a disease that is making me considerably miserable. I have visited, say three doctors. They have been considerate and empathic to my suffering but have been unable to diagnose my condition. Hence they have not been able to cure my disease. Now I go to visit a fourth doctor who is really obnoxious but he does diagnose me and eventually helps me out of my misery. Would I be grateful to that doctor? Most likely I would. Would I be offended by his obnoxiousness? Would I think him to be eccentric genius? Probably I would.

On the other hand, if I have a common condition and the doctor is inconsiderate? What would be my reaction? Would I be less tolerant of him than I would have been in the previous case? I would be, most likely. If the doctor is obnoxious when I am in severe pain but he eventually cures my pain, what will I think of him then?

Do the patient’s perception of the doctor’s behavior varies with the disease they are suffering from? What I mean to say is that if I have a condition that I believe only a particular doctor can diagnose and treat then do I become more tolerant of the doctor’s behavior?

Personally I believe that if a few doctors were not able to diagnose the patient’s disease and it is diagnosed a very obnoxious one then the patient would be tolerant of the obnoxious doctor. I cannot give any evidence in its support but this is my personal opinion. But for a common disorder, I believe the patients are not tolerant of the doctor’s obnoxiousness. When we are in some situation that is beyond our control and no body seems to be able to help then we would tolerate even the most inconsiderate one who is actually helping us, though what we would think of him is a matter of debate.

To what degree I would tolerate the obnoxiousness of a doctor? Being a medical student I don’t think I would be able to tolerate even one instance of obnoxiousness. But how much will a patient tolerate? Again I believe that depends on the patient himself. If he feels the doctor can help him though being obnoxious, the patient might tolerate him. But to do this the doctor would have to earn the trust of the patient. How much can a patient trust a doctor who is inconsiderate and obnoxious? How does a patient trust a doctor? What is trust based on? Is it based on the results that the doctor provides such as diagnosing the disease and providing actual treatment or how the doctor behaves with the patient? May be both are necessary for the patient to trust a doctor, but which is more important? Results or behavior?


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