The doctor will communicate with you now, or not 8.31

August 31, 2008|By Lloyd Waters

I was up and out of the house early the other week and made my way to Borders for a cup of cappuccino, extra dry. At 11:30 a.m. on this particular day, I would be meeting my family doctor, Khalid Waseem, for lunch and a quick chat before my afternoon schedule would beckon me in another direction.

As I headed for the plush couch in the corner of the coffee shop to enjoy the java and pass the time until my lunch engagement, I happened to read a New York Times article that suggested that the doctor-patient relationship was "on the rocks." How could this be?

This article suggested that this relationship was becoming strained for many reasons.

Golly, I hope my doctor doesn't see this article or he might cancel our lunch. I have a good relationship with my doctor, and I wondered why someone might have an opinion about the decline of these relationships.


As I examined the article further, I soon discovered one of the quoted studies was conducted by Johns Hopkins' staff. Um, must be a fairly impressive study considering the source.

According to the Times piece, almost 25 percent of the patients thought that their doctors exposed them to unnecessary risks while another study indicated that a patient's compliance to taking one's medication was directly influenced by the doctor-patient relationship.

When I consider some of the stories I hear from many people about their interactions with their doctors, I guess I have to give some credence to the idea that perhaps this relationship is deteriorating.

I have heard both good and bad stories about people's visits to the doctor's office. One of my friends shared a recent experience with me.

"They move patients through my doctor's office like a herd of cattle. They seem too busy to adequately talk to their patients."

When I called a neighbor and inquired about the condition of his wife who had been transferred to a large city hospital, he responded, "I don't know what's happening and no one has told me why my wife is going to another hospital."

Still others seem somewhat confused and baffled as to what is happening in regard to their medical referrals or other diagnostic procedures.

Perhaps the doctor's explanation is not clearly understood, or perhaps the patient's listening ability is compromised.

One thing for sure, good communication involves speaking, listening and understanding. Emphasis on understanding. Leaving any one of these three ingredients out is like serving a bowl of tomato soup without the tomatoes.

What happens to the patient with dementia who has a doctor's visit and neither understands what is said, is confused about prescriptions and has no close family to help them out. How might confidentiality guidelines affect the treatment of this person? Does the doctor expect some other part of society to respond? Or is he or she more cautious when dealing with this patient?

Yeah, I can see how patients might become a little frustrated with the doctor's visit and their interaction, or lack of one during the office visit.

But doctors, too, are only human, aren't they? They must deal with increasing caseloads, the escalating cost of malpractice insurance, the complexity of some of the many illnesses they confront, adequate compensation for their work from insurance vendors and perhaps a variety of other issues. They do have a family life, don't they?

Do doctors suffer from burnout and stress of their professions? I am certain that they do.

Could these factors affect the doctor-patient relationship? More than likely, I concluded.

On the other hand, I have seen that many doctors are good listeners, give good quality care and show a genuine concern for their patients.

Other factors, however, might contribute to a demeanor that is less than adequate. These interactions will surely diminish the doctor and patient relationship.

Can there be some improvements between doctors and their patients? To the extent possible, it seems that both parties could work at it a little harder. Patients do have the right to ask questions.

I once read somewhere that "one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of attention". Perhaps both parties might benefit from that simple notion.

After all, I believe it was Emily Dickinson who made this neat observation:

"Surgeons must be very careful when they take the knife!

Underneath their fine incisions stirs the Culprit Life!"

Boy, what a morning! The coffee was good, the article was most interesting, and now it was time to have lunch with my doctor. I am truly privileged to have a good relationship with my doctor - hope you are too!

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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