The Test of the Good Doctor (or, The Good Patient)

“Now that’s a good doctor!” Can you say that about your doctor? What is there that will test whether your doctor is acutely insightful and wise, a source of valuable insights and sapient advice. In short, your doctor is good because your doctor is understanding. And what is it he must understand?

That you understand!

He or she diagnoses your health problem. Then he says that he will write a prescription for you to take. Now! Here comes the test of the empathy and understanding of your doctor! Is this doctor of yours a truly great doctor? What must your doctor do to prove his or her ability to solve or alleviate your health problem?

The doctor must be assured by you that you understand your health problem. How do the best doctors do that? He simply says this: “Now you tell me what I have described as your problem. In your own words say what I have told you that your health problem is.” If the doctor does not do that, then it is totally up to you to be the GOOD patient to say, “Now doctor, let me get this straight. This is my problem as you have stated it: (blah-blah-blah) Is that right?” Then you must go on to say, “This prescription will do this: (blah-blah-blah) Am I right?”

You have stated what you have understood to be your health problem. You get it right. Or you get it half right and you are corrected. Or you have missed the point altogether and are corrected. You have then passed the test of understanding or you have misunderstood. When you leave that good doctor’s office, you will have a firm grip on your marching orders, what you have to do to make yourself better.

Much of the confusion is what the nature of your problem is, how you take your medicine, what the effects will be, what cautions must be heeded, what side effects might occur, and how the prescription will act on that problem and, hopefully, will “cure” the problem. A huge problem is in the terminology, the medical words for health problems and the medical words for the medicines. Absolutely HUGE! The jargon, the mind-numbing jargon of the profession laid on the patient.

Such thorough understanding should be the goal of any doctor who considers him- or herself to be a great doctor. And, the goal of any GOOD patient.

It is APPLIED UNDERSTANDING, where you actively listen by repeating back what the speaker said to the speaker’s satisfaction.

Actually, we should all be so lucky to have such an informative interchange. I do not think such doctors are in plentiful supply. And I do not believe that GOOD PATIENTS are in plentiful supply, either. As it so happens, I have been undergoing such a problem that has motivated me to write this. (I am shaking my didactic finger in my own face at this point.) But I think I have figured it out on my own. Now I will go to the pharmacist and tell him what I have put together as my problem and all that stuff about the prescription. If the doctor does not do it, it’s up to you to put together your own narrative. And I hope you have the active mind to do for yourself what the doctor may have left undone.

A former colleague of mine studied doctor-patient communication. I remember his saying that many doctors have not had a course in doctor-patient communication. That may have to be on-the-job training. Unless med schools have begun to include that in the curriculum.

Doctor, heal thyself!

Patient, question! Persist! Probe thyself! It is your duty.

Maybe it is just a well choreographed dance, taking two to tango.

Post Script: 6-23-11

May I suggest to you that you try out “active listening” (APPLIED UNDERSTANDING) on that teen-ager in your family. Adolescents can be tough because their peer pressure is so tough for you moms and dads to compete against. Also, your boss! Also your spouse! Also your teacher! Also your (?) (you name it) etc. etc. etc.

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7 Comments

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  2. my God, i assumed you have been going to chip in with some decisive insght on the finish there, not depart it with ‘we go away it to you to determine’.
    [JFD: “HUH?” ‘we go away it to you to determine’ HUH?]

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