Human touch missing from interactions with doctors

In the light of the articles on the high costs of medical fees, I would also like to bring up the struggles that Singaporeans may also experience as caregivers when their loved ones are admitted to hospital (Visitor upset at host of extras in KKH bill, July 9; Patient could not get place in SGH, hit with $78k bill, Oct 11, 2017).

When my mother was admitted to hospital, my father, grandmother and I faced difficulties in trying to obtain formal updates from the hospital about her condition.

I struggled with my own desperation and helplessness, as I was not able to obtain clear information from the hospital.

As a trained social worker going through this personal crisis, I could not help but reflect on the importance of the "human touch" that could have been accorded to my family during this harrowing experience.

Instead, doctors seemed to be more focused on speaking in esoteric terms as well as on the graphs and charts on their computers as opposed to focusing on the experience of the patient and their family members.

A silver lining in this experience often was the warmth of the nurses and other patients' families in the ward, who could empathise with the struggles and lack of knowledge we were facing.

As Singapore faces an ageing population, there will also be increasing numbers of people like me - delegated the task of caring for our aged parents as well as our children.

As we move into adopting newer and more advanced technologies, there is also a need to consider the evolution of the human experience and provide that human touch for both patients and caregivers as they negotiate difficult experiences in hospitalisation.

Perhaps medical social workers can be called in as intermediaries to acknowledge the struggles faced by families and translate confusing medical jargon for families who may not be aware of the medical issues they are facing.

At the same time, I also wonder whether doctors and medical professionals can also be sensitised to how such terminology can further exacerbate anxiety that comes after a potentially bleak diagnosis, and be mindful of how they can share information in ways more empathetic to the patient and caregiver.

Patients need empathetic hearts to support them in their medical battles as much as they need advanced treatments.

Yeow Beng Zhen (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'Human touch missing from interactions with doctors'. Print Edition | Subscribe