In this article I focus mainly on public sector health care consultations. It is an open ‘secret’ that UK public health services are: short of staff, doctors are overworked, many groups of staff are suffering with burnout, clinic sessions are quite time-limited, follow-up visits are few and far between, patients are often not given sufficient time and support to ask questions.
Following a concentrated first consultation for between 45 to 60 minutes, it is difficult for patients to remember all that was said. When I meet patients I inherit for follow-up visits, it is frequently the case that they do not know for what medical conditions they are being treated, and what is the purpose of each medication prescribed to them.
In today’s fast-paced world, a visit to the doctor’s office can often feel rushed and impersonal. Yet nearly every standard states that patients should be treated with respect and as involved participants in their care. Nonetheless, significant proportions of patients leave their consultations feeling confused and unsure, a sentiment that echoes in the hallways of medical practices everywhere. But what if there was a way to change this narrative? What if patients could leave their doctor’s office feeling informed, empowered, and cared for? That would create demands that may not be manageable.
In a world where healthcare often feels complex and impersonal, there’s a growing movement to bring compassion and understanding back to the doctor-patient relationship. By embracing strategies that focus on clear communication, patient education, and a multidisciplinary approach, we can create a healthcare experience that truly resonates with the needs and desires of those we serve. However, all that good stuff requires time, good staff who are not burnt out, and who actually care.
The dream of a more empathetic and patient-centred healthcare system is built on hope. The realities of limited resources, staffing shortages, system constraints, and other challenges present obstacles. The barriers make the dream unattainable. No one is coming!