As patients and their families expect best possible care, they also have certain responsibilities including respecting hospital norms and following instructions from the doctors or other medical staff.
Our two sons and a daughter-in-law, who are in the medical profession, occasionally express workplace frustrations during dinner time. They vent that some patients behave so unreasonably that it compromises the quality of service. We tell them that patients and their families are already in a desperate situation causing them to behave in ways that they normally wouldn’t.
Our children counter that their frustrations arise not from the patients’ emotional state, but from the patients’ and their relatives’ demeanor. Sometimes, they do not comply with the basic hospital norms. Other times, relatives and well-wishers gather in large numbers on the hospital premises crowding out visitors of other patients. Or they will all rush into an intensive care unit making it difficult for hospital staff to keep everyone safe and prevent infections from spreading. Another example is when patients jump the queue without regard for others who wait patiently. Worst of all, some patients don’t comply with the doctors’ prescriptions and suggestions for lifestyle changes; instead, they will visit different doctors looking for easier, less restrictive suggestions.
Service is co-product
Goods are tangible things that are first produced and then consumed. In contrast, service is often produced and consumed simultaneously and the quality of service depends not only on the service provider but also on the service recipient. In health care, the quality of care depends both on the medical professional’s knowledge and skills and the patients’ cooperation. So, service is always a co-product, not the only product of the provider.
Service seeker's role
Much is said about the etiquettes and professionalism expected from medical professionals, but what should be expected from the patients and their families? As patients and their families expect best possible care, they also have certain responsibilities including respecting hospital norms and following instructions from the doctors or other medical staff. For example, if a patient ignores the queue system and tries to get ahead by force or by influence, other patients will feel dissatisfied with the hospital and will believe that certain patients will be prioritized even when there is no emergency.
There is no guarantee that a patient will always get better after visiting a medical professional. Their condition may deteriorate despite the medical professionals' best efforts. In these circumstances, the patient’s family members often blame the hospital for making a bad situation worse. They will vandalize hospital property, manhandle staff and demand hefty compensation without understanding why the patient's condition has deteriorated. Such behavior harms both the quality of care and the institutional reputation and increases the overall costs of the hospital. It also makes doctors hesitant to take very risky cases.
Counseling individual patients and their family members about appropriate behavior would be inefficient and unrealistic; instead, awareness campaigns through mass media could be effective to bring about a change in behavior. Also, enforcement of hospital procedures like queues and regular communication between doctors and patients can help patients understand what is expected of them. (The blogger can be contacted at 9841586477, firstname.lastname@example.org)