Dear Editor, HAVING a loved one hospitalised, regardless of the seriousness or nature of the ailment can be quite distressing. It is easy to overlook this fact until it is personally experienced. Healthcare professionals in most parts are brilliant in diagnosing and treating bodily diseases. For us healthcare professionals, that was sufficiently acceptable in the 20th century. This is reflected in the content of the medical curriculum of yesteryear. Medicine, like time, is a living and evolving creature. What was acceptable evidence-based medicine when I was born in the mid 1970s, would be frowned upon today.
In the 21st century, medicine has developed new dimensions. I must hasten to add, when I write this, I am not alluding to the sophisticated medicines which can now target diseases at the molecular and genetic levels, or sophisticated machinery which can now do the most unbelievable type of investigations: for example, capsule endoscopy which is essentially a digital camera, as small as a capsule, that a patient can swallow and as it traverses the digestive tract, high-definition diagnostic images are taken. To bring this mystery to which I am alluding to a speedy conclusion, I will, without further suspense or iatrogenic-induced palpitations, state that I am referring to something simple, that can be easily overlooked — medical communication
While I may not agree with the Kaieteur News headline which states, “GPHC medical personnel being trained to improve attitude,” I do understand that sensationalising stories is part of the armoury of the news media to improve ratings or sales. Mr Editor, attitude, with its negative connotations, is a complex, observable behaviour, with communication just being one part of it. Therefore, the headline is misleading, mischievous and disparaging. Having said that, I must make it pellucid that my missive today is not to criticise the Kaieteur News, something that their hierarchy struggles to accept and see positively; rather, the purpose of my missive is to commend the government on this brave new step
It was only a few months back, one of the worst ministers of health, Dr Ramsammy, chose to be critical of the government and had the audacity and stupidity to state that the health service collapsed the day the PPP was voted out after 23 disastrous years. Like most Guyanese, I struggled to pick my lower mandible off the floor after reading such political, nonsensical hogwash. As a result, I felt compelled, something our Honourable Minister of Public Health was more than capable of doing, to correct his fallacious argument and highlight the many positives this government has achieved for the short time they have been in power. Don’t get me wrong, there is much more to be done to raise the health service from the abyss that PPP has left it in after 23 years of mismanaging and politicising. Introducing medical communication to the health service is another of those positives. Educating health professionals at the GPHC about medical communication is a positive development, but I am quite certain that the government will be making such invaluable teaching countrywide, to include all national health services. Further, I am abundantly confident that the communication specialist would be identifying tangible endpoints, e.g., reduction in patient complaints and improvements in patients’ experiences.These are just two of the potential endpoints, but it is important that the patients be the central focus of the endpoint and not the healthcare professional, for example, collecting and displaying his certificate
Finally, once again I will repeat: the medical curriculum in our medical schools need revamping to reflect medicine in the 21st century. I have written this on multiple occasions in letters to the editor. Further, I would humbly suggest, as part of this modernisation of the curriculum, communication be integral, since the international evidence is that bad communication is the number one cause of patients’ complaints. We need to do better as healthcare professionals. Don’t wait until you are on the other side of the proverbial medical coin, that is, the patient or relative, to appreciate the importance of good communication
Regards Dr Mark Devonish, MBBS MSc Med. Ed