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Held every year on March 30th, National Doctors’ Day celebrates physicians in the United States and their contributions to healthcare. For a patient, a good patient-doctor relationship is critical for a multitude of reasons. Patients with cancer frequently have a tremendous amount of anxiety and fear related to their disease, their treatment, and ultimately their life expectancy. Therefore, having a comfortable relationship with your physician is essential to the quality of your treatment. For those diagnosed with mesothelioma, visiting a mesothelioma specialist is paramount to obtaining the best medical treatment. We have many useful resources to assist patients in finding a top mesothelioma doctor near them.
To find out more about what makes a good doctor patient relationship and the reasons why finding the right doctor is so important, the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance spoke with Melissa Veselovsky, CEO of Healthcare Advocacy & Business Solutions and former Director of Patient Advocacy at Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers. We asked Melissa a few questions about the importance of a good doctor/patient relationship.
1. Why is it so important for a cancer patient to have a good relationship with their doctor?
It is critical for a cancer patient to have a good relationship with their doctor. Studies have shown that a good patient/doctor relationship can increase the likelihood that a patient will follow treatment recommendations, take medications, come to appointments, and make lifestyle changes necessary to improve outcomes. Cancer is a life changing diagnosis and its treatment and effects are often experienced for weeks, months, and even years. The patient should be a part of the decision making process and should feel comfortable bringing up sensitive issues, asking questions, and understanding the diagnosis, treatment, side effects, and long term impact. Cancer can affect a patient's emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
2. In what ways does a good doctor/patient relationship help with the patient's overall quality of care?
A good patient/doctor relationship can help improve the quality of care by increasing the accountability of the provider and giving the physician a better understanding of the "big picture" and how to help the patient improve: mind, body and spirit. Cancer care is not just about surgery, drugs, and radiation; it is also about helping patients manage uncertainty, cope with the physical, emotional, psychosocial, financial and spiritual aspects of a life-threatening diagnosis. Patients that have these needs addressed do much better when faced with cancer. When the doctor/patient relationship is strong the patient is more likely to share these stressors as well as an cultural issues that may be barriers to their care. The patient may then be more likely to comply with treatment and recommendations long term. Some patients even develop a type of athlete/coach relationship with each other during treatment.
3. Are there things to watch out for or signs that a patient should consider switching doctors?
There may be several reasons for switching doctors but a patient should always understand that sometimes personalities just don't mesh. This is a perfectly acceptable reason to change doctors. Trust and good communication is essential during a life-changing illness such as cancer. Some signs that a patient should consider switching doctors:
- When a physician consistently does not take the time to listen to the patient.
- When personalities do not mesh and you just don't get along.
- When the patient does not feel like a good partner in care despite trying to resolve these issues with the physician.
- When the patient feels that his/her care is not what it should be and has not been able to resolve this with the physician.
- When the doctor is disrespectful to the patient or family members or goes against the wishes of the patient.