Communication is the key to success when it comes to the patient-physician relationship. Compared to the past however, this relationship has changed somewhat: although physicians are still the experts, thanks to the internet and popular science, patients now also know more about health and diseases. An "informed patient" is not a problem for physicians, but rather a source of better understanding.
In this interview with MEDICA.de, Dr. Heiner Heister talks about the informed patient in the doctor's office, how physicians can support a discourse and what ultimately stands in the way of comprehensive communication with the patient.
Dr. Heister, we are talking about "the informed patient" – does such a patient actually exist in your opinion?
Heiner Heister: From a practitioner's point of view, the degree of knowledge is of course always relative when he deals with a layperson in his field of expertise. Even highly sophisticated, discerning people become helpless and destitute to some extent when they are sick. A qualified physician needs to be able to handle this appropriately and always consider this in his behavior.
When would patients actually be sufficiently informed about their condition?
Heister: When the physician to the best of his knowledge has explained what the health situation is, what consequences may result and what measures can be taken. The physician should also be sure that the patient has really understood all of this.
What do you think about a patient, who comes to a consultation with prior knowledge – and has looked into symptoms for instance and researched on the internet?
Heister: This is essentially welcomed. This patient is interested and has perhaps already developed preconceptions about his health situation. As a physician, I then try to take the patient’s perspective and discreetly insert my expert point of view. Ideally, a discourse develops from this.