Patients often lament on a few common issues when seeing their doctors.
1. The doctor is not spending enough time
With a busy list of patients waiting at the clinics, it is no wonder that doctors do not spend enough time with patients. If you only get to see your doctor for 15-20 minutes every 3-4 months, the time spent has either got to be very efficient or it would just be a rushed session. Some patients feel short changed after waiting for hours, only to be given a fraction of that time with the doctor. For many patients with chronic diseases, this is a common lament.
2. I didn’t understand or can’t remember what the doctor said
We know that patients only retain about 20% of what is being said in a consultation room. In a region where languages and cultures are very diverse, this figure could drop dramatically. So many patients have to resort to waiting for the next appointment with a increasingly lengthy list of questions, that will undoubtedly not be answered completely. Many doctors now do communicate with patients via digital platforms but these are patchy services at best.
3. I can’t reach my doctors
Doctors do treasure their privacy. Most will direct patient queries through the hospitals or their clinic staff. Very occasionally do they pass their personal contact numbers to their patients. With the explosion of social media, patients are increasingly reaching out to their doctors via these platforms which is certainly not ideal. Many doctors are told not to engage patients via this medium for fear of security breaches. So getting to your doctor can be very difficult.
4. “How have you been?” Honestly, it’s a long story which I can hardly remember.
This is a common opening question when you see a doctor. Unless you keep a diary (which the doctor usually has little time to pay attention to), you are unlikely going to even remember what happened over the past 2 weeks. The information that the doctor gets from this question is going to be highly inaccurate and likely does not represent how the patient has been. Many details will undoubtedly be forgotten.
5. The hospital processes are too complicated.
Ever tried to find your way around a hospital? It may take you a few more visits to familiarise yourself to the processes and areas within the hospital. Be prepared, it may take a little bit of walking and exploring. It may be very different from the previous hospitals that you have visited. Signages can be too populated. Service counters also appear to be the bottle neck on most occasions as crowds swell around them. Many of the processes are repeated for every visit and some with the same information that had already been provided before.
There are probably many more common issues. With this, healthcare delivery has to change. The episodic clinic visits would soon be the thing of the past. The need to keep patients from coming to hospitals by bringing healthcare to them is crucial in decongesting hospitals. This will enable needy patients in getting the necessary attention and time from doctors. Constant monitoring and communication with the patient is now possible from automated responses using digital intelligence to using IoT devices. Collating this information and making sense of it in a short time via big data analytics, allow doctors to assess the situation efficiently and offer the best course of action.
Dr Benjamin Cheah