“Is it just me, or was that doctor [a jerk]*?”
It wasn’t just her. He was judgemental, condescending, and refused to listen to us. My housemates and I may not have been doctors, but we were not ignorant. I was three-quarters of the way through a genetics degree and four months later, the two of them were accepted into med school. We knew a little bit about the human body. Still, the doctor clearly saw us as three foolish clubbers.
As an accident prone child, I have dealt with a lot of hospital doctors over the years. Most of the time they are efficient, concerned and proffessional. Still, communication between health care proffessionals and lay people can be improved.
According to Lee and Garvin (2003) the general assumption of health care providers is that people act unhealthly because they don’t know any better. Therefore, if you just give people more information they will improve their health. Tell people they need to get pap tested regularly to avoid dying of cervical cancer and they will go get pap tests. Except this ideology doesn’t take into account social factors such as being too poor to pay for medical tests, transportation or medication should something actually be wrong.
Sometimes a person’s physical well-being looses out to thier social well-being. I know I’ve done some ill-advised things to fit in. What if you know drinking and smoking are bad, but you come from a culture where you cannot refuse a senior collegue who is offering you a smoke and a drink? I know sun tanning causes cancer, but my society insists people are much more attractive with a tan. What to do? Well I suppose I could move to China where pale skin is sexy, but that seems a bit extreame. In these situations usually people will just ignore the health advice.
Besides blaming the individual for their poor life choices, health care providers also tend to assume that they understand the situation best, based on the fact they are the experts and lay people are not. I may not know all the symptoms of cerbral palsy but I know my body. This ‘I am a doctor and therefore I know better than you’ leads to a monologue where the doctors/experts just tell their patients (lay public) what they should know.
Instead of this one way information transfer Lee and Garvin suggest health care should move to a two way information exchange. In the future if you tell a doctor that you have tried a medication before without any results then the doctor should listen to you instead of prescribing it anyway.
Still, I think about about all the pseudoscience cures the public can access online and wonder what new challenges an information exchange between the public and health care systems will bring. Do you think it’s important for doctor and patients to discuss both homeopathy and chemotherapy when choosing how to treat cancer? Will an exchange be more or less beneficial? Please leave your comments below so that we too can engage in an information exchange.
*as this is a university assignment I felt it necessary to sensor the actual quote.
DeTurk, M. (2009). Adam’s a doctor [photo]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/dalboz17/4274454323/
Lee, R. & Garvin T. (2003). Moving from information transfer to information exchanged in health and health care. Social science & Medicine, 56, 449-464.