January 5th, 2017 6:24pm
Fourteen years ago, I took the biggest risk of my life. I had a thriving medical practice, yet I felt stressed and unfulfilled. Why? Because I was seeing 35 – 50 patients a day, spending as little as five minutes per patient, and with each encounter finding myself quickly searching a patient’s words for the one complaint for which I could quickly give a prescription.
Despite having four children nine and under, a new house, and enormous expenses, I became the 9th doctor in the United States and the first in New York State to form a concierge medical practice, where people pay an extra annual fee for personalized healthcare. Since that time, the relationships I have forged with my patients have prompted me to joke with my wife that I have an entire family about which she knows little!
During the past fourteen years, I’ve learned a lot about why patients choose my practice; that is, what people really want in a doctor-patient relationship.
1. A trusted, professional confidant and guide
Life is challenging and often people don’t know where to turn for non-judgmental advice; whether it is something physical, emotional, or even financial. Most people want a doctor with whom they can share the intimate details of their personal challenges and who can be there for them, as an advocate.
2. Someone to help navigate medical information
The online world is a minefield of frightening, often contradictory, health information. Sifting through what is appropriate for a particular person is challenging and often my patients turn to doctors like me to help them make sense of it all.
3. A good listener
For me, among the most upsetting statistics is one I heard recently. On average, doctors interrupt patients after only 18 seconds. It’s almost like saying, “Just get on with it.” At best it is rude, but at worst it sabotages a genuine, carrying relationship—one that is necessary to adequately prevent, diagnosis, or treat a problem.
4. A person who genuinely cares
For many reasons, doctors often wear their white coats as armor to deflect the “silly” questions from the pedestrian public. What people really want is not necessarily a friend or an equal, but someone who really cares, is respectful, and is down to earth. Unfortunately, certain pressures often influence doctors to make decisions that might benefit their pocketbook, or ones they think might help decrease their chances of being sued. But, most people just want a doctor that cares and is honest enough to help them make decisions solely to benefit them, the patient.
5. Is available
Certainly, this means being able to connect with a doctor when the need arises. But it can also mean a doctor who is available to consider different perspectives and ideas. Many patients have shared with me that their former doctor simply shut them down when they brought up information that they found online or obtained from a friend or family member. The advent of online doctors will especially fulfill this need.
6. Is open-minded
Maybe a doctor doesn’t really believe that acupuncture works or that certain essential oils might be effective in anxiety. Yet, a good doctor is open-minded and will put aside his or her bias and not be offended if a patient does not accept their opinion. Many doctors are quick to shoot down a patient’s opinion with “there are no studies to prove that,” or “that just doesn’t work” when in fact, the doctor does not really know. Being open-minded also means not being stuck in old patterns of belief and practice. The world is changing and patients want their doctors to be open to that change.
7. Is smart
This doesn’t necessarily mean book smart. Surely there exists a foundation of knowledge that is essential, but emotional intelligence goes a much longer way in the long run. And smart also means being interesting in cutting-edge developments in science and technology (such as online medical services like SteadyMD), to maximize health and prevent disease.
8. Knows how to keep things light
Let’s face it, going to a doctor can be downright nerve-racking. The last thing you want is a doctor who is too serious and treats you like one of his or her textbooks. As I wrote earlier, people don’t necessarily want to be our best friend, but they do want to feel relaxed and comfortable. A good doctor knows how to do that even in the most serious circumstances.
Unfortunately, because there really is a shortage of primary care doctors, many of you will never have the opportunity to meet such a doctor in the traditional sense. There are, however, services now available that are affordable and can provide you access to this type of care. Learn more about what I and many other doctors are developing by clicking here to find out!
© Dr. Charles F. Glassman, CoachMD