Patients who trust their doctors are more likely to adhere to prescribed treatment

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A new study of 101 Hispanics and 100 non-Hispanics from the University of California presented at the recent American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2017 in Arlington, Virginia has shown that patients with high blood pressure who had more trust in the medical profession were more likely to take their high blood pressure medicine than those with less trust.

• Patients who had higher levels of trust took their blood pressure medicine 93% of the time versus 82% of the time for those who had lower levels of trust.
• Additionally, having trust in the medical profession was linked to greater resilience (ability to adapt to difficult life circumstances) and better health-related quality of life.
• Trust had an equally protective effect on the health of both groups regardless of race or ethnic origin.

The doctor-patient relationship is the foundation of the practice of medicine. It is a fiduciary relationship; fiduciary derives from the Latin word for “confidence” or “trust”, which forms the basis of an effective doctor-patient relationship. Mutual trust is important for positive treatment outcomes as was shown in the above study. But, this trust is slowly eroding away and a doctor-patient relationship is no longer held sacrosanct as it once was.

Lack of communication is a major cause of disputes between doctors and patients today. This can be tackled by the triad of ‘Plan, Communication and Documentation’, where ‘Plan’ means observations and treatment decided by the doctor and if the same is ‘Communicated’ to the patient, ‘Documented’ and then implemented, there can never be a dispute. Any disparity between your plan and the outcome leads to a dispute.

A patient who does not trust his doctor will not confide in him nor will he be motivated to adhere to the prescribed treatment plan. Modern medicine today is patient-centric based on partnership, where the patient is an equal partner in the diagnostic and therapeutic process. Patients rely on doctors to take care of their health, so it is important that patients trust their doctors. Be courteous with the patients and explain the management plan in a language that they are able to understand. This is the concept of informed consent

To build a successful doctor-patient relationship:

• Do what you say: For example, if you have told your patient that you would be late by one hour, make sure that it is only one hour and not later than that
• Document what you speak and
• Preserve what you document

Dr KK Aggarwal
National President IMA & HCFI