This past weekend I had the pleasure of meeting both Maria (@somebody_exotic) and Tiffany (@TiffanyAndLupus). Both are young, educated and funny. Both also happen to be engaged with online patient communities focused on chronic conditions: diabetes and lupus. In addition to talking about food, shopping, and subway systems, we discussed the nuances of healthcare individuals with chronic conditions can sometimes experience. One of the themes that emerged in my chats with both Maria and Tiffany was the importance of relationships and communication. If a patient has a bad relationship with a healthcare provider (HCP), the HCP may be seen as a “bad doctor” or “bad nurse”. The opposite can be true as well. HCPs might label patients as “non-compliant” or “bad patients”. Are there really “bad” HCPs out there? And are there really “bad” patients? I like to think not. I do however believe that there can be bad relationships between healthcare providers and patients. Typically these bad relationships are based upon unmet expectations on either party. Perhaps the patient didn’t meet the HCPs expectation of testing glucose or taking medication on a regular basis. Or, perhaps the HCP didn’t meet the patients expectation of spending more time with them, showing care and compassion, or simply being up to date on the latest research and treatments. In either scenario, one person has unmet expectations and the relationship is strained.
In any good relationship, whether it be between lovers, friends, or even HCPs and patients, each party must voice their expectations – and the recipient of that information must listen. Any one who has ever experienced a bad breakup or fallout from a friendship can understand how destructive a bad relationship can be. Not all people are meant to “click” with one another. Personality, treatment approaches, and even age can impact how strong a relationship might be between a HCP and patient. If you aren’t getting your needs met, make sure expectations are clear. If expectations were made clear, and there is no resolution, it may be time to notify the other party that the relationship is not working out, and move on. Remember, it takes two to tango. If you don’t have a willing and able partner, its hard not to misstep, become frustrated, and maybe and fall down. Don’t let yourself fall, there are plenty of people out there who know the right dance steps, or are willing to learn them with you.