We often hear about things doctors wish their patients would stop doing. What about the things doctors do that displease patients? For both parties to have a harmonious relationship, they should be willing to make adjustments. Yet, most of the time, only one of them is willing, leaving the other party with the shorter end of the stick.
Improving the doctor-patient relationship is crucial these days. In the period of a pandemic, the last thing doctors need is a reluctant or uncooperative patient. But they may encounter them frequently if they don’t stop their wasteful, not to mention expensive practices.
To make healthcare more approachable to patients, here are the things doctors should stop doing:
1. Requiring Too Many Tests and Procedures
When you visit the doctor for a minor health issue, you tend to leave with a long list of lab tests and procedures you’re apparently required to complete. If you’re a doctor guilty of this practice, ask yourself the following:
- Do you prescribe ulcer therapy to patients with low risks for gastrointestinal complications?
- Do you repeat blood tests or chemistry testing despite clinical and lab stability?
- Do you order bronchodilators for children with bronchiolitis?
These are just sample scenarios, but they apply to any other medical practice. If you answered “yes” to all of them, consider rethinking your practices. Hospital leaders actually urge adult and pediatric doctors to curb their excessive test requirements. Asking a patient to undergo too many tests, most of which are unnecessary, only results in wasteful healthcare spending.
Below are some recommendations for adult hospital medicine:
- Avoid prescribing ulcer medications to inpatients unless they’re at risk of GI complications.
- Avoid conducting blood transfusions on patients without symptoms of coronary heart disease, heart failure, or stroke.
- Avoid performing repetitive blood tests or chemistry tests in the face of clinical and lab stability.
For pediatric medicine, these are some recommendations:
- Avoid requiring chest X-rays to patients without severe asthma or bronchiolitis.
- Avoid using bronchodilators in children with bronchiolitis.
- Avoid routinely using pulse oximetry on children with acute respiratory illness unless they are on supplemental oxygen.
By ordering only the tests and procedures relevant to a patient’s health issue, clinics can incur lower costs, and patients can spend less money and time.
2. Asking Patients to Go to the Doctor
Patients aren’t engaged because they hate going to the doctor in the first place. Indeed, clinics and hospitals are hardly pleasant places to visit. They tend to draw anxiety and fear from patients already apprehensive about their condition.
But doctors can’t just let their patients deal with their health issues alone. Thankfully, they can use technology to reach out to them. Telemedicine, a service that allows patients to seek healthcare from their mobile devices, is the key. It’s an innovative patient engagement solution that bridges the gap between patients and providers, especially during this period.
By making this service available, doctors can discourage their patients from searching their symptoms on Google rather than consulting them immediately. Telemedicine for primary care makes consultation, diagnosis, and billing all virtual, saving hospitals and patients time and money.
3. Refusing to be Transparent
We can relate this to doctors’ requiring too many tests. When patients are ordered to take a series of unnecessary tests without knowing why they need it, they could assume that their providers are just after their money. While that might be true in some cases, doctors often require numerous tests because a single test isn’t always completely accurate. But they have to let their patients know this. Without a doctor’s transparency, a patient may feel cheated on.
Therefore, doctors should explain why a certain patient needs to undergo a series of tests. But, again, doctors must also consider whether they’re not wasteful. Overtesting has negative effects on both providers and patients. Healthcare costs increase the more tests providers order, while patients may feel a fall sense of security because of their tests’ normal results.
There are situations in which a normal test result doesn’t actually indicate good health. It might turn out that the patient just needed another test that would confirm their diagnosis. Hence, providers should carefully decide which tests to order. It’s the only way for them to reduce costs and deliver true information to their patients.
If doctors can admit their wasteful practices and change them, they’ll earn their patients’ trust and cooperation. The healthcare industry can preserve its resources as well. What’s more, hospitals and clinics can help save the environment. Medical waste hurts the environment daily. So by reducing their tests, they can also generate less waste and contribute to cleaner air, land, and water.
Healthcare is also a business, so every action they make has consequences that reach a global scale. If doctors and patients develop a good relationship because of their ethical practices, the world can become safer overall.