Never forget the importance of eye contact
An advice by a doctor, to the doctors
We live in a world where face-to-face communication has been replaced with chat boxes & messengers; full of emoticons, smileys, and emojis. Sometimes when we fall short of words, our 'eyes' tend to conclude the moment we are in. Most basic mammalian traits that signals an interaction - eye contact is a valuable trait not only acknowledged by humans but even by animals who love to maintain an eye contact and express their displeasure when not done.
In health care, simple eye contact is the core of doctor-patient interaction that signifies exchange of emotions between the two as normal human beings. Dr. Suneel Dhand; from his several interactions describes how eye contact between doctor and patient remains a powerful tool of displaying and understanding emotions and how it has eroded since the entry of technology.
Dr. Dhand writes and speaks immensely on communication skills that physicians should foster. He has observed that the art of eye contact is falling in society in general. Technology has showered us with great efficiency and speed but reduced eye contact among humans is one of the major drawback tha came with technology.
When Doctor Dhand visited his parents in England during holidays, they were installing a new electrical system that could be controlled via a smart device app. While he was struggling with the system, the Installer remarked 'My doctor doesn’t even look me in the eye any more during my appointments, and spends his whole time on the computer!'.
Dr. Dhande was used to such statements expressed by patients about other doctors in general. He wasn't expecting such a statement in England, where electronic medical records are more user-friendly, and had no requirements for bloated notes or billing issues.
Understanding the no eye-contact clause
Dr. Dhand wondered why did the patients come across such situations?
He recounts that no instance where any physician has ever deliberately given inadequate attention to a patient has been reported. Doctors are trying their best within the confines of the system and limitations to take utmost care of patient's need.
He frequently comes across days where physicians with their head buried in the computer don't even look up when given information or asked a question by another doctor or nurse. Though such things are easy enough to forget amongst all the important things in a day, but it is always duly perceived by the person with whom the interaction is made.
Ritual needing a twist
Dr. Dhand describes possibilities where eye-contact can be initiated & maintained in order to ensure that no patient comes away with this unacceptable viewpoint that their doctor didn’t even look at them!
• Is that possible to always try to look directly into the eyes of patients for a set amount of time before he stares back into the screen or start examining?
• Or pause during the interaction to do this?
Dr. Dhand swears by a routine he has been following since his practice began: Just 1-2 minutes or more of uninterrupted listening time, even in an extreme hurry.
Every profession has good orators/listeners with excellent communication skills. The same is with doctors; who are naturally better than other doctors at communicating to patients or to their fellow mates. He stresses on the fact that no matter how busy the schedule is, awareness of amount of eye contact with patients, other fellow doctors, nurses or people we meet is something we should always keep during our interactions.
He concludes by quoting famous author and wellness expert Richard Moss, “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention” and challenges the doctor community to commit looking up and make more eye contact when someone is talking for at least 10 seconds (or ideally longer) instead of having their head buried in the device, irrespctive of where they are or what they are doing.
His advice: Communicate the good old-fashioned way that all mammals are designed to do. At home or at work.
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