Doctors are trained to treat patients and that is they keep on doing. But in today’s era that is not enough. They are expected to examine, investigate, diagnosis , treat correctly and communicate to the family or patient. Everything should be speedy and financially suitable to the patient’s expectations. Even if that is done, the things do not end here. Doctor need to document, what has been communicated to the family. It is hard to believe that doctor at a hospital like Apollo, who really did well to diagnose a disease like SLE and still did not communicate. Yes, news item mentions that in file that there was no evidence of communication. Doctors still behave like doctors and do not treat patient as consumer. Usually , doctor trust their patients and there is lot of verbal communication takes place. Verbally they sympathize, communicate and tell many things which are not documented as a routine.
The Delhi State Consumer Commission, in its judgment, made it essential for a hospital to disclose to the patients or their attendants, the line of treatment and the potential risks involved in it.
The judgment came in connection with the death of a 23-year-old student, who died during a treatment at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in 2004.
Many times patients are sincere enough to admit to verbal communication. But sometimes when during ongoing medico legal lawsuits, a feeling of revenge prevails or as guided by lawyers, patient may not admit to the verbal communication. Specially if verbal communication is not documented in file.
How to save yourself by “documenting the communication”
- examine, investigate, diagnosis , treat correctly and communicate
- Make a note of plan of treatment and prognosis, and communicate to patient or attendants.
- Sign yourself and ask the patient or nearest relative to sign.
- It is not uncommon that relative will refuse to sign. In that case just write a note and mention that attendant refuses to sign.
- It is also a common issue that after listening to everything, relative will say that he does not understand or will ask his uncle or aunt. These are difficult moments and commonly happen. Just make a note of everything. Besides it wastes crucial time.
- Can use camera for communication in difficult cases.
- Never rely on verbal communication. It has little value. Commonly people refuse to admit verbal communication, and will say that they were not told anything.
As time for everything is limited in life, be it treatment, communication, consent or documentation. So message is clear for doctors. “Talk less and write more”. You will be judged by documents after many years. Therefore, do save the patient, but save yourself also.