#HealthyMaharashtra: ‘Mutual trust will improve doctor-patient relationship’

Since ancient times, in India, doctors have been treated with respect and, sometimes, even worshipped like gods. Patients have believed, trusted and had enormous confidence in them. The faith has been so strong that the medical profession was regarded as a noble profession, and their work was honoured with recognition

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However, the situation has changed drastically over the past few years. Over a decade, or so, patients have increasingly started losing faith and trust in doctors. This is a grim reality, which we cannot afford to ignore anymore. We have to accept this bitter truth, and work towards regaining the lost faith of patients.

With each passing day, cases of attacks on medical professionals in our country are rising. These attacks are spreading like an epidemic. Patients’ trust is the key ingredient of the doctor-patient relationship. But today, as we see, this harmony has already suffered a massive dent. Once the relationship, which was based on trust, has now hit a new low.

As caregivers, our primary responsibility is to treat all the patients without discrimination. A person may be rich or poor; our profession does not allow us to differentiate between them.

A few years ago, patients used to run to doctors without hesitation for the smallest of ailment. Today, people hesitate to go to doctors as their image has taken a beating. While there are various reasons behind this, the fact is people are losing faith in doctors. Is this beyond repair? Can we not regain the trust of patients? Yes, we can. As caregivers, our primary responsibility is to treat all patients without discrimination.

A person may be rich or poor; our profession does not allow us to differentiate between them. Taking the law in their hands is not the solution to this problem. It is entirely wrong, and I strongly condemn this. At the same time, the only solution is to rebuild the strong doctor-patient relationship that had always existed in our country.

We, as doctors, need to change our approach and attitude towards our patients. We should see to it that patients or their relatives do not feel neglected by the way we behave. This is the only workable solution through which we can achieve positive results in future.

In this day and age, people have very little patience. They get dejected if they feel a doctor is neglecting them and is not providing medical care to their loved ones. This impatience snowballs into anger, leading to attacks on doctors. When a relative goes to the hospital with a patient, the only thing he/she thinks about saving the patient at any cost. All they want is proper medical care and attention from doctors and hospitals. However, if they feel doctors are not providing them the care that they deserve, they feel betrayed. Building effective and transparent communication between doctors and patients and their relatives will ensure that the doctors are able to convey they are doing their best for the loved ones.

One more important issue is availability of doctors in rural areas. I would like to appeal to all young medical students to consider rural service for a year. If not, at least practice ethically in the urban set-up throughout their life. Poor patients look up to you as a saviour and you must provide affordable medical care to them. Merely forcing the young doctors to work in rural areas will not yield results. Rather, this urge should come from within. Making something mandatory adds negativity to the act of service and defeats the whole purpose.

Lastly, the bond shared between a doctor and a patient is woven by the threads of mutual trust and faith. As doctors we should respect the sentiments of patients, and as patients or relatives, we should trust the doctor and his abilities. Only then will we see a much-awaited positive change.

The author is a social activist and a Padma Shri and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee