Doctor Reputation

How to Balance Patient Relationships with the Business of Healthcare

How to Balance Patient Relationships with the Business of Healthcare

The medical life is very demanding. That’s probably one of the things you’re unintentionally prepared for in medical school. Perhaps it is intentional but as medical students we’re unaware of it. Med school is hard and so is residency. You work a ton of hours a week and you’re always tired. If you can’t manage your time then you simply won’t make it regardless of how good of a doctor you have the potential to become. Some things will half to be dropped, some things will be done with average quality, and others will get your full undivided attention. It’s incredibly important to be able to decide which is which. This also falls under decision making training and you’re going to have to excel at that in order to be a good doctor.

As a doctor you have the business aspect of medicine as well as your relationship with your patients. Which is more important? The romantic in me would have to go with doctor patient relationships. After all we’re in it to help people and make their lives better. It would be simply wonderful if we could only focus on that and neglect the business aspect. The paperwork and non medical procedures and technicalities are things we dislike. Last thing we want is an office job and unfortunately at times it can feel like one. Records are extremely important, so is keeping your office supplied with the correct tools, and not to mention having to update your medical knowledge so you don’t fall behind your peers.

A busy schedule is what most accomplished doctors suffer from. It’s not really suffering because most of them love their jobs but it still overtakes other aspects of their lives. Perhaps a crammed schedule will limit patient time or even family time. A doctor may see too many patients during a day. Having to move back and forth between the hospital and the office will also take its toll. It happens gradually so the doctor slowly becomes accustomed to this kind of life but that doesn’t make it normal or healthy. Most doctors think these are my patients and I love doing this but they need to take time to really think if this is okay on the long run. An awfully crowded schedule can result in physician burnout, depression, or even suicide. These aren’t things only doctors and their families need to worry about but also the public. Let’s say I’m a physician who’s starting to develop burnout and clinical depression. Sure that’s bad for me and my family and friends will want me to get better, but think beyond me. Would you want me to treat you in my current state of mind? Surely I’m not focused or thinking straight. A physician suffering from these conditions can actually harm his or her patients. That’s why taking a look at your schedule every once in a while is important, not just because it compromises your time with patients, but also because it can affect your health and eventually can end badly for your patients.

Staying up to date in the world of medicine is no easy task either. This falls under the business aspect of medicine too because the better you are as a physician the more likely patients are to come to you. A healthcare business’s reputation depends on how good and skilled the doctor(s) is. Luckily the stuff you learned and have been practicing for years won’t require you to go over it because when you practice something it automatically sticks forever. Even if you do go over it I’m sure it won’t take anytime. Medicine isn’t that simple though and there are new updates and discoveries every single week. You’re going to want to read up on medical journals. Of course how many you want to read will vary. You could read as little as one journal regularly or up to ten. You don’t want to indulge into it too much so that it takes away from time you have for patients, but at the same time you don’t want a patient who googled their disease to come across something new and ask you about it only to find out you never heard of it. Then of course there are CMEs which vary in form. If you already have a tight schedule you might want to choose to do the ones you can do offline whenever you’re free rather than go to conferences or do regular online classes.

On the other side of all of that comes time spent with patients. This is probably every doctor’s favorite time because this is the actual job whether it’s taking history, examining, going over a treatment plan, or operating (for surgeons). Your relationship with your patients will have a massive outcome on how they feel at the end of their treatment plan. If you spent a quick five to ten minutes with a patient then hastily write down a prescription and send them on their way you’re not giving them the impression that you’re taking care of them. They could not comply with the treatment due to that feeling or maybe they don’t trust your judgment. How do they know they can trust you if it only took you a few minutes to decide what they had? They can see you’re working in a hurry and anyone working in a hurry makes more mistakes. They’ll opt to go to someone who takes a little more time to care for them. Actually some doctors prefer to spend more time with patients despite knowing everything they need to know already just to give them that sense of security.

Even if your patients are terminal and there’s nothing you can do to help them, it will definitely make them feel better to know that someone they trust and have full faith in did everything possible and that they can rest knowing nothing more could have been done. Isn’t that the best way to go? Certainly beats wondering “what if he or she missed something?” “what if something could be done but they just don’t know about it?” That’s a terrible feeling for a terminal patient to have and you need to make sure they don’t have it.

Additionally having a good relationship with your patients makes them less likely to sue you. Statistics have shown that patients are less likely to sue doctors they like. Simply because they trust them and know that even if a mistake was made that the doctor would have rather died than make it and that it was completely unintentional. That’s what you get from showing patients you care about them and earning their trust.

Hiring great office staff is one of the ways to cope with the business demands of the job so you don’t take time from patients. Hire someone who has experience working in a medical setting or office. Someone who isn’t afraid of asking for money and knows how to collect it from insurance companies will save you a lot of time and effort. Make sure the people who set up appointments are organized and allow adequate time for each patient visit. You also need the people at the reception to be pleasant. Arguments in the office will hurt your patients as well as your business.

It doesn’t make you weak to ask for help or take a step back when things are too much for you to handle. That’s the smart and safe thing to do. No one wants a doctor who thinks they can do it all and takes on more responsibilities than they can handle resulting in some serious damage. Take a breath. Put your patients first because that’s the leading factor that will make your business succeed. Hire people who make your life easier, and listen to your loved ones if they say that it’s all becoming too much.