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September 25, 2014 by Andrea

©Depositphotos.com/michaeljung ©Depositphotos.com/michaeljung

We all know that following a doctor's prescribed treatment plan helps ensure a patient's prolonged health, but sometimes it's not that simple. What if a patient doesn't trust the doctor or the healthcare system in general? To improve patient treatment, we must first improve a patient's perception of who's giving the treatment.

According to ScienceDaily's post referencing the Journal of General Internal Medicine's article, "Perceived Discrimination, Patient Trust, and Adherence to Medical Recommendations Among Persons with Sickle Cell Disease," when people feel that the healthcare system has mistreated or discounted them because of their ethnicity, disability, socio-economic status, etc., they are more likely not to have confidence in doctors and other medical providers. This, in turn, leads to patients not taking medications and otherwise not obeying instructions given by their providers. Needless to say, this can be very detrimental to a patient's overall health.

Here are 3 ways medical professionals can help instill more trust in order to successfully treat their patients with SCD:

1. Practice effective communication skills. Oftentimes, it may seem as if a doctor simply comes into the patient room, explains what's wrong, writes a prescription, and then leaves. Taking a few more minutes to ask the patient more questions as needed, answer any questions that a patient may have, and listen to any concerns that may arise, will help build a more meaningful relationship between patient and doctor, which will foster an increased level of trust. The patient may feel that if a doctor is willing to truly attend to his or her needs, the doctor must really care, and therefore wouldn't develop a treatment plan that wouldn't be beneficial.

2. Include the Patient in Decision Making. Doctors are the experts, but sometimes the delivery of information to patients isn't received very well simply because the patient was not consulted. For example, if a surgery is necessary to a patient's survival, instead of telling the patient that he or she has to have surgery and it's not up for discussion, explain to the person how important the procedure is, if there are any other options, and what can happen if treatment is refused. Then, allow the patient to make the ultimate decision. This way, patients feel more involved in their own health plan and will therefore be more apt to stick to it.

3. Check in with Patients After an Appointment. Giving a patient a quick call the day after an appointment shows the person that the doctor truly cares about his or her well-being. The call doesn't need to last longer than a few minutes and can give the provider a chance to make sure the patient understand the treatment plan, see if everything is going smoothly so far, and to offer assistance if anything arises in the future.

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