Becoming a doctor requires many years of education, training and experience. Patients seem to have a lot of expectations for their doctors, but most doctors are unaware of these expectations. The British Medical Journal published a study which revealed that 89.4% of clinicians do not ask about their patients’ expectations even though they are aware of its importance. Similarly, a survey conducted by Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that only 16.1% of clinicians asked patients about their expectations.

It is important for doctors to be aware of their patients’ expectations. Doctors would be able to address these expectations adequately, leading to greater patient satisfaction and better quality of healthcare provided. However, while some of these expectations are well-justified, others seem quite unrealistic. Below are three of some the most common expectations that patients have regarding their doctors.

1. The doctor knows everything

Since doctors are healthcare professionals, patients seem to expect them to know EVERYTHING related to their field. However, this is an unrealistic expectation, as the medical field is vast and ever-changing. New procedures, technologies and studies are being published all the time. Doctors are aware of the importance of staying updated, and always do make the effort to read and keep up with current issues in their area of specialization, yet to know everything is far from possible.

It is already challenging to try and keep up with current developments in the field while balancing a heavy workload on a day to day basis, but what futher confounds the matter is the proliferation of the internet, which has also vastly increased the amount of information available, resulting in patients asking about issues that could be outside of doctors' knowledge or experience, e.g. a specific diet or a recent supplement that is clearly outside their medical knowledge.

2. The doctor should decide for the patient

Patients should be fairly involved in decision making, given that their health is on the line. Despite this, many patients rely entirely on their doctors to prescribe their treatment, and may even resist having a clear understanding of their situation. Doctors are there to advise the patients on their conditions and the pros and cons of available treatments, but it is unrealistic to put the entirety of their healthcare into the doctor’s hands. Patients must also be aware and make an effort to understand their condition, and to monitor it better in order to achieve their desired outcome.

Doctors should also make sure to not undermine the patient’s involvement in the decision-making process and make decisions autonomously. It is essential to ensure that patients are well-informed about their rights, and the risks of whatever they decide in the end. Ultimately, the patients are the ones directly affected by the treatment, and so should have a more active role in making these decisions.

3. The doctor must always be a role model of the community

Doctors have always been stereotyped as well-mannered figures in the community, in part due to the perception of medicine being a noble profession. In reality, being a doctor and being a role model are two entirely different things. A role model should not be based on the profession, but rather on the attitude and achievement. For examples, some doctors promote wellness but do not practice it, whereas others may detest the job but stay in it for the money, which would lead to a less-than-stellar job attitude that definitely should not be emulated. Of course, there are those who truly care for patients and do their very best, and these are the ones who should be looked up to, rather than a generalisation of all doctors.

A survey of more than 1,000 clinicians in Denmark, US, Israel and UK revealed that 90% of doctors were unsure of what patients expected from them, and only 19.6% felt that they could handle patients’ expectations. Thus, doctors should double up efforts to understand their patients’ expectations, which would help to clear up misconceptions and help them do a better job as caregivers. Patients in turn should also have realistic expectations of their doctors. As healthcare is everyone’s responsibility, both doctors and patients should be well aware of their role in achieving the desired outcome of treatment. MIMS

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