A patient hearing to the patient

  • Parminder Kaur, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Sep 27, 2014 09:15 IST

The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease - Sir William Osler, noted Canadian physician.

These days an occasional visit to a doctor's clinic is inevitable. We ourselves invite certain diseases owing to our stressful, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits, while some ailments come unsolicited as unwelcome guests. Whatever the reason, an apple a day somehow doesn't always keep the doctor away. For the past few years, I have been a favourite of the disease demon and have had my share of rather too frequent trips to not one but many medics in different specialties. However, this is not a preview of my personal diary of woes but an attempt to share my experience and voice my concerns as a patient.

With all the due respect to the champions of this noble profession, I encountered a peculiar paradigm of patient consultation, hitherto unknown to me. To begin with, deciding upon which physician to consult is a challenge in itself for the patient, thanks to the best of references from scores of well-wishers. After much deliberation, an appointment is sought from the most eminent specialist of the town that too at his/her private clinic and not at the hospital he/she might be associated with. This is done apparently to ensure quality consultation time and of course to avoid the excruciating waiting period of a hospital OPD (out patient department).

As a patient you have many (over) expectations from your first visit to the physician and hope that it will herald a healthy life for you. On the day of the appointment, you reach the clinic well before time with a lot of anticipation. It's only after you are unable to find your coveted seat in the plush waiting area among a congregation of fellow patients, that your first myth is shattered.

General or private, a waiting area always justifies its name. You still hang on to the thread of hope and wait patiently (pun intended) for you turn.

All this while the one thing that intrigues you is the swiftness with which the patients enter and exit the physician's room. During one such appointment, I was surprised to see that next patient was being called inside even before the first one had come out. So forget privacy or confidentiality.

Finally, your name is announced and you walk towards your saviour in the white coat, anxiously. The first question posed is inevitably, what's the problem? And because that's what you have been rehearsing and waiting for so long, you blurt out your list of ailments. While you are narrating your medico-emotional saga, there's hardly any eye contact between the two of you. The physician is busy screening your test reports, recording your case history and simultaneously writing the prescription. This is followed by a few questions from the other end which usually requires only a nod of affirmation or negation from you.

Presuming your history has been taken, you now look forward to some effective and empathetic communication with your physician. But, alas your precious consultation time is over and you are handed over the prescription with medication and some fresh investigations ordered. Before you try to prioritise and frame your concluding question, you are given a follow-up appointment after a week or fortnight. Without any intention of being rude, impatience is apparent in the room and a call for the next patient, inadvertently makes you leave. You come out of the clinic a tad discontented, with still many doubts and unrequited questions.

I often wonder when the patient will get a patient hearing.

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