Is access to knowledge really a downfall to doctor patient relationships?
The reasons why a patient makes an appointment with a medical professional have not changed much over time, however, the relationship between the medical professional and patient has. A patient seeks the advice of a professional to assist them in achieving health or help find a solution to a health crisis. Many years ago, a doctor would enter the room with the patient, diagnosis the problem, and the patient would follow the recommendations without question. Today, things are different thanks to the enormous amount of information readily available to all persons at all times. The power of information from health experts across the country is within reach of our fingertips, literally. PewInternet.org found that in 2015 68% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone. This has led to patients expecting a certain outcome from their doctor before they even enter the doctor’s office.
In Seth Godin’s book “Tribes”, he says that leaders need to tell the people this is who we are, this is what we are doing, and this is where we are going. He says, “a tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” In this example the tribe refers to all the patients in the practice, the staff, and the doctors who lead the practice. As the doctor patient relationship has evolved so has the medical practice. More than ever it is essential that the practice be able articulate who they are and what they do loudly before a patient enters the office. Just as the internet is being used to mass produce medical information, it can also be used by medical practices to communicate who they are, what they believe, how they serve patients, what their values are, and even the expectation for the doctor patient relationship. The more clearly a doctor can articulate this the easier and sooner a patient can choose whether to join the tribe.
Should a patient book an appointment after knowing exactly who the practice (tribe) is the compliance to care should be increased. Doctor recommendations should come from a position of confidence and commitment, the doctor should believe the recommendations are absolutely the best course of care for the patient. The doctor who develops trust with patients from the beginning of the doctor patient relationship, which as we’ve seen begins long before the patient ever meets the doctor in person, has truly taken the time to care, to empower, and to equip their patients and their community.
What if the doctor and patient can’t see eye to eye?
Patients should not try to change the doctor’s recommendations and the doctor should not try to change the patient, if they disagree on care from the beginning the patient is not ideally suited to that tribe and the doctor should make every effort to find a tribe that is best suited for that patient. This takes a community of tribes, or doctors, working together to serve a community with the ultimate outcome being a healthier community, not a bigger individual tribe.
Let me be clear in saying that this does not make the doctor’s recommendations right or the patient’s choice wrong, or vice-versa . It simply means the doctor cannot be all things to all people. It’s okay to choose a different path leading to a different tribe.