I read an article titled “Patient Satisfaction is Underrated” on the popular medical forum KevinMD.com. It was written by a medical student who was trying to explain to physicians that it is possible to keep patients happy, without caving in to unrealistic or inappropriate demands. Previous to this, an article was written titled “Patient Satisfaction is Overrated”, which explained that patient satisfaction doesn’t produce better outcomes for patients, and that doctors are under a lot of pressure to score high on patient satisfaction surveys, or fear decreased reimbursements.
There were a lot of mixed emotions in the comments section. A lot of disgruntled replies from doctor who have had their fair share of abuse from patients, administrators, and policy makers. Then there were the doctors who were still holding on to idealistic beliefs. Some fell in between, wanting to have those ideals but realizing it wasn’t always practical.
I think maybe I walk in the middle. From a physicians perspective, I cannot deny that constant pressure from my administrators, patients trying to take advantage of me, and simply being overworked, has not made me a little bitter sometimes. But the patient within me still feels like doctors should still believe that providing patient satisfaction is still important and attainable.
As the former article stated, communication is the key. As physicians, we need to be willing to communicate, and not become jaded by prior experiences. We need to find our passions again, remember why we went into medicine, and find happiness in the good work we do, despite what is happening around us. I feel like happy doctors make happy patients.
As patients, we also have a duty to do. We need to see our doctors as human beings and learn how to trust them. We need to recognize that our doctors are not just two letters behind a name, or a signature on a piece of paper. Our doctors are resources with years of training and knowledge who are ready and willing to help us. We have to stop telling our doctors what we WANT because Google said so, and trust the judgement of our doctors to do what we NEED.
I believe we can change the atmosphere between doctors and patients, so that both patients and doctors are satisfied, but we have to be willing to see each other’s side and work together.