Doctors need to become good listeners too. Since time immemorial, we have been indebted to one profession in all times of pain and distress- doctors. While they are invaluable resources irrespective of the location, Indian doctors have been considered the best of the lot for quite some time now. Be it tackling more straightforward issues like iodine deficiency or performing complicated surgery, taking up long hours, and our doctors have left no stone unturned when redefining the image of what ‘good healthcare’ should look like. Especially now, with people looking up to doctors and other frontline healthcare workers for protection during COVID times, a doctor’s role in our day-to-day life has only enhanced in importance. Despite all good work, one most common complaint patients have with their doctors is the limited time during appointments. In India, most doctors are overburdened, which may be a reason for the limited time; however, a doctor with excellent listening skills cures 50% of the illness without even using any medicine.
Dr. C.S. Pandav, Former HoD Community Medicine, AIIMS, conveyed to Prittle Prattle News through a Press Release. “One of the biggest problems I have personally witnessed in doctors is the lack of listening skills. Instead of reserving their time to listen to what the patient feels or says, the first interaction is just the doctor talking 80% of the time. Physicians need to learn to listen to their patients before embarking on a path of diagnosis; that is bound to save quite a lot of time.”
Over time, several doctors have come across this practice and been irked by it. Practical communication skills are essential for dealing with patients who are already disturbed and in pain. While Indian doctors have excelled in all kinds of practices, be it allopathy, naturopathy, or homeopathy, they lack empathy and sympathy, which are extremely critical when dealing with a distressed individual. To address this issue, all medical institutions need to instill communication skills in their newly graduating doctors so that change comes from the very root. Emphasis needs laying on medical students spending almost three months in Indian villages, interacting with people on the ground level. This village immersion course is exceptionally essential.
Dr. G.S. Grewal, Geriatric Expert & President-Elect, Delhi Medical Association (DMA), confirms Prittle Prattle News through a Press Release that, “Some of the problems and obstacles are known to youngest graduates, one hurdle realized later in their career is communication with the patient. The medium of teaching in a medical college is English, and most patients speak in Hindi or their local language; many complaints related to diseases have colloquial words to describe them, therefore merely due to lack of proper communication many times diseases are missed and quite often leads to patient frustration.”
Adding to this, Dr. Swadeep Srivastava, Founder HEAL Foundation, informs Prittle Prattle News through a Press Release that, “For a Doctor to become a good listener is more important than his Diagnosis/ Prognosis & other knowledge & practice skills. It is very pertinent in the Indian scenario, where the Doctor-Patient Ratio is amongst the world’s poorest.”
While the lack of communication skills is one such critical issue that requires immediate expert care, several other problems continue to haunt the Indian healthcare system. Every Public hospital or dispensary is witness to long queues of ailing people waiting due to hospital beds’ dearth. It is one reason why services in developing nations are worse than in developed countries; in the former, physicians can only provide 5 minutes or so to each patient, while the latter sees doctors dedicating 30-60-minute slots to each patient! “In such a scenario, most of the Drs tend to cut short on what the Patient has to say (Listening) & jump on to the Prescription, which at times May also result in the poor quality of diagnosis/ prognosis resulting in a compromise in treatment!” says Dr. Swadeep Srivastava.
Commenting on another common phenomenon of ‘considering the doctor a god-equivalent,’ which is quite prevalent in India, Dr. Srivastava adds, “For such doctors, listening to their patients & families comes in the way of their elated egos, and hence many times the patient is at a receiving end and not satisfied at all. The patient does not complain since they consider the doctor to be a god.” The Indian education system produces some of the best, most brilliant physicians and surgeons worldwide. Adding a little empathy and enhancing their ability to listen to their patients can help these doctors prepare the perfect prescription!