Patients worry more as doctors speak less

A study conducted by medical students at Sion hospital has revealed that the trust between patients and doctors has weakened, since the latter have no time to communicate with those that they treat

Even as the mistrust and discord plaguing the doctor-patient relationship intensifies by the day, a study conducted by a team of 12 undergraduate medical students at the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General hospital and medical college (Sion Hospital) has attributed the mutual distrust to 'ill-informed patients,' who are not intimated about their condition or treatment procedures by the doctors.

For the purpose of the study, 50 patients each from the out patient departments (OPD) and the wards, and 50 doctors holding various posts at Sion hospital were interviewed anonymously.

The results revealed that 22% of the interviewed patients had little or no awareness of the surgical procedures they had undergone, while 18% were ignorant of the diagnosis. 67% had no idea if their illnesses were contagious, and were clueless about how they had contracted them.

An alarming 74% were uninformed about the schedule and duration of the treatment prescribed to them. The feedback also revealed that 88% of doctors considered that the mandatory obtainment of consent prior to a procedure was only a legal formality.
Only 42% claimed to be taking the trouble of explaining the procedure to patients, prior to surgery.

"Relatives of patients are always anxiety-stricken, and it is the duty of the attending doctor to explain every detail about the procedure that will be performed on them. But shortage of manpower, coupled with non-availability of drugs creates pressure and tension, leading to altercations.
In course of the study, we inferred that owing to manpower crunch, doctors don't have enough time to communicate with the multitudes seeking treatment at public hospitals.

This leaves patients ill-informed, confused, edgy and neglected," said Dr N D Maulik, professor and head of department of medicine, Sion hospital.

'Communication is cure'
Dr P S Ramani, senior surgeon at Lilavati hospital, said, "I have been working in both private and public hospitals to impart communication skills to medical professionals.

In public hospitals, patients come from various socio-economic backgrounds, and speak various languages, which may be unknown to the medical professionals. The language barrier is the first hurdle that should be overcome."

Dr Sumeet Pawar, resident at the department of neuro and spinal surgery at Lilavati Hospital, said, "Even in other countries, there has been an escalation in the number of lawsuits filed against doctors and institutions.
The study has also suggested means of providing supplementary information to patients, through brochures and pamphlets. The information should be supplied to patients in the language that they understand best." 

Telling results
- 87% of the patients were not aware of the alternative options for the treatment.
- 56% of the patients did not ask questions to the doctors, as they feared them.
- 96% of the doctors feel that lack of education proved hindrance in communicating with patients. Another 40% blame it on superstition among patients.
- 96% of the patients in the medicine department, and 90% in the surgery department were not aware of the risks involved in the procedure, or the side effects of drugs that were administered to them.

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