Think back to the last time you were at your doctor’s office. Did you feel rushed during your visit? How many complaints were you allowed to talk about? How many minutes did the doctor spend with you? Was your doctor even listening? Did he end up prescribing a pill or referring you to somebody else? Did you feel empowered or motivated after the visit?
Unfortunately this is what the delivery of primary healthcare has come to. Our healthcare system is becoming stressed, our doctors are overburdened and the quality of our healthcare is suffering because of it.
Canada now maintains a “B” grade and 10th-place ranking among the 17 peer countries in health outcomes
There are number of interventions at various levels that are needed in order to reform our healthcare system, but as a healthcare practitioner, I believe it is important to start with the basic doctor-patient encounter. In particular, the short unengaged in-office visit is an area of concern that is creating some problems and needs to be addressed:
Patients who don’t feel cared for are less likely to be engaged during the visit and patients who ask questions are more engaged when they leave the office.
Also, in short unengaged visits, there is a higher likelihood that the doctor will impose his own mandate and judgment rather than being client focused by discussing and defining the goals of the client.
A patient’s contact with his physician is often a first step toward reconnection especially if the patient does not have a supportive social network. The doctor-patient relationship becomes even more critical to overcome the struggle when describing their illness and symptoms for the first time.
Patients are people and people need to be heard and understood and made to feel important. Visits with your doctor should involve questions, ideas, goals, reassurances, encouragements, jokes, etc. Information should flow freely from patient to doctor and vice versa.
The therapeutic relationship is one of mutual trust and respect where your doctors fosters faith and hope in your wellbeing, invests time and knowledge in your health, shows genuine concern, empathy and interest while being sensitive to your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Many doctors today don’t have a therapeutic relationship with their patients. With one eye on their patients and the other on the clock there simply isn’t time or opportunity to do so. As doctors, we are missing a great opportunity to make an impact on the health of our patients and this is a tremendous disservice.
The basic foundations of the therapeutic relationship are pre-built into the delivery of naturopathic medicine:
- Naturopathic doctors believe in the Holistic Principle which means that all parts of the body are interconnected as well as there is a connection between your physical body and your emotions, mind and spirit as well as your environment.
- The very processes used to determine the underlying causes of illness requires the doctor to be dialed-in, engaged, empathetic, attentive and listening actively.
- Naturopathic doctors typically spend a long time during the visit getting to know and understand their patients and are well equipped to recognize and address multiple concerns and emergent issues.
- Some visits last more than an hour and the doctor spends several hours thereafter trying to come up with an individualized treatment plan for the patient.
In this type of healthcare delivery, the doctor and patient form a strong partnership. The patient is usually fully engaged in their own treatment, motivated and empowered to make the necessary changes and typically will have a higher rate of compliance and success with their treatment.
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