The relationship between patient and doctor can be a surprisingly complex one, involving professional, personal and transactional aspects. A good relationship builds over time as GPs begin to understand the many factors influencing their patient's health and well-being.
The doctor-patient dynamic has shifted in recent years, thanks to the emergence of quality improvement programs and health consumer movements. Whereas doctors were once seen as all powerful, thanks to their monopoly on medical knowledge, patients can now readily access information online. Self-diagnosis can be a dangerous undertaking, but with doctors called upon to treat patients in ever-tightening appointment slots, there's little time to build rapport or ask questions that unearth the bigger medical picture.
Healthy Male receives 2,000 calls and emails each year from people looking for information that they haven’t been able to find elsewhere or wasn’t provided in a consultation due to embarrassment or a lack of time.
Brodie, Healthy Male Office Coordinator, regularly chats to people who have called the Healthy Male 1300 number. 'While we're happy to share information, it's important that people feel comfortable asking their doctor about their specific health concerns. And if they're not happy with how they're being supported, they should seek a second opinion.' Brodie adds. 'Callers tell me that they didn't have an opportunity to ask the right questions. They're conscious of the time and forget to ask questions. And then they don't want to take time off work for a second appointment'.
Patients also hesitate to move from one doctor to another, even if they feel they aren't receiving the support they want. This can be due to a sense of loyalty or the reluctance to repeating a full or sensitive medical history.
Finding a GP for the long-term begins with taking a pro-active approach. For A/Prof Tim Moss, Health and Content Manager at Healthy Male, this means identifying a GP who's a bit like him. He explains, 'A doctor the same age and gender as me would have an interest in the types of health problems that afflict people like us and be up to date with relevant knowledge and best practice.'
Having found just such a GP, Tim is happy to see his doctor as often as needed and, like 68% of patients polled in a 2005 survey1, he reports high levels of satisfaction with his GP's care and communication as well as better health outcomes overall.
While time pressures, coyness and life, in general, might make building a rapport with a GP difficult, it is possible to achieve success with some homework and a little persistence.