09 October 2006

Filipino Patient Traits

Feel free to agree, disagree, and add to this list of observations I have compiled over the years while interacting with Filipino patients. The Filipino patient has the following characteristics:
  1. Long-suffering and Very Patient - the Tagalog word is "matiisin." He will not consult a doctor unless the pain has become so intolerable he can no longer walk or go to work. By that time, his disease has grown worse, and the doctor finds it difficult to treat him.

  2. Afraid - fear of whatever disease he has haunts him incessantly. He does not want to know what he has because he is afraid it might have no cure, or finding out that his days on earth are numbered. In general, most Filipino patients would rather not see their doctors.

  3. Frugal and Thrifty - Filipino patients are so careful about how to spend their money that given a choice between enduring a long-standing pain and feeding his family, he will always choose the latter. This trait, combined with traits #1 and #2, makes him shun hospitals and clinics for the longest time.

  4. Prescription Modifier - corollary to #3, if a doctor prescribes him a medication for say, one week, he will stop taking that medication in 3 days once he feels better already. Never mind if the doctor emphasized that it should be taken for a week without fail. He always knows better. Likewise, if the medication is too expensive and has to be taken, say 4 times a day, he will likely modify it to 2 times or once a day just to save his money. He ignores the fact that he might not be receiving the correct drug dosage anymore.

  5. "Prescribe Me Something, Please!" - when a patient sees me because of a mild cough or a cold, I sometimes advise them to eat citrus fruits, drink lots of water, take paracetamol for fever, and rest at home for a couple of days. I tell them they will get well in due time. They will give that malcontented look and ask, "That's it? You're not prescribing me more medicines?" They simply can't accept the fact that they will get well by resting and drinking plenty of fluids. Not all diseases need medicine and most medicines have unwanted side-effects. I try to spare them from expense and side-effects and still, they want otherwise.

  6. Agrees With The Doctor While Inside The Clinic - while consulting, most patients will agree with their doctors that smoking is bad and they should quit. They will agree that exercising regularly should be made a habit. They will nod when their doctors tell them that eating too much lechon (and other fatty foods) and drinking beer daily are bad for them. They will even dazzle their doctors with anecdotes of how a fat friend suddenly died of a heart attack. But wait until they step out of the clinic. They're back to their old ways. They were just paying their doctors lip-service. It was all nothing but an empty exchange.

  7. Low on Preventive Measures - corollary to #6, the Filipino patient in general does not believe that prevention is more than a pound of cure. He enjoys living because life is short, and he indulges in all its pleasures. He ignores the no-smoking signs, he turns a blind eye on the importance of nutrition labels on food items, and says proudly that he'd rather die with a smile on his face than a smirk because of too much self-imposed health discipline.

  8. Very Timid - almost approaching the height of apathy, the Filipino patient sometimes seldom asks about disease processes, what causes it, how it can be avoided, and how it can be treated. This type of patient is the direct opposite of #5. When I see patients, I devote some time educating them about their illnesses, complete with diagrams and drawings. It is frustrating when you sense that you are just wasting their time because they are not interested. To this day, I'm amazed by this passivity of interest. I think everyone must express intense concern about what goes on in their bodies and how diseases affect them.

  9. Listens More To Others - some Filipino patients would rather copy the recommended medication of a friend, a relative, or the suggestion of the saleslady of a local pharmacy than consult a doctor. This is a risky trait as they may either get worse or get inappropriate treatment from these faulty recommendations.

  10. Believes in the Supernatural - most Filipino patients in the provinces still believe in the power of kulam and superstitions, and would rather consult faith healers than doctors.

14 reactions:

BatJay said...

everything you said is true. and it really is hard to convince patients to do the right thing. i know because that is also my natural tendency.

but having diabetes has made me change my mind. you really need to visit the doctor and do what they say you should do because it really helps.

of course, the caveat there is that you must be sure that your doctor knows what he's talking about.

Tani said...

patient #6 and #9 ... pain in the a#*

Marichu said...

hello doc im happy to annouce that i am pregnant! congratulate me na cge na hahah im 1 month pregnant just yesterday lang nalaman namin ni mister when we consulted gynecologist..ang saya saya ko ngayon ingat! ang God bless you

bugsybee said...

Re patient #10: I found out lately that avid believers in faith healers do not just come from the province. I have a friend who came all the way from the U.S. where she is a successful realtor just to see a faith healer in Pangasinan. She says that a lot of successful OFWs patronize Filipino faith healers and indeed, when I accompanied her to one (out of curiosity but I didn't have the "faith" and the courage to try being "healed"), I found out that most of the donors are OFWs from the U.S., Saudi, U.K. etc.

JMom said...

omg, doc, you just described my lola and my dad perfectly! It is funny after the fact, but while you're in the middle of these things, it is so darn irritating!

My lola falls in the Timid category although she also has a touch of all of the above on different occasions. Doctors are gods to her, so she will never question or contradict her doctor even if she feels they are going the wrong path.

My dad falls in with #s 4&6. He knows everything, including when and what medications to take. GRRRR!!! no, he's not a doctor. Although I hear doctors can be a pain in the butt to treat too :P

Dr. Emer said...

BATJAY: Most patients need a jolt to make them listen. As you said, a disease experience or a near-death experience usually converts them to being health-conscious.


MARICHU: Kudos to you! I can sense your euphoria even if you're thousands of miles away. :)

BUGSYBEE: I've heard of that too, from Mr. Licauco, the local paranormal guru. Faith, like love, is a many-splendored thing. Science requires evidence while faith-healing needs blind obedience. I'm amazed by those who subscribe to faith healers. I think they fall into two types --- those who don't know any better and those who had previous bad medical experiences. Yes, it's true, there are a few foreigners who patronize our local albolarios. Tony Agpaoa of Baguio was once very famous because of his "psychic" surgeries.

JMOM: Oh yes, doctors are the worst patients sometimes. ;)

Sidney said...

Not a Filipino but definitely a number 2 ! :-(

ann said...

I agree with #6.My mom is taking medication now because of mild heart attack, but she said smoking is her life and she will not quit until she dies.(hirap paliwanagan)

watson said...

Doc, believe it or not, and I know believe because it's listed there (hahaha) that people really still do believe in witch doctors. Especially in the provinces. And as for learning the root cause of a disease and how to avoid it, I think it's because the patient thinks the doctor studied medicine so he ought to know what to do and need not be lectured about it anymore. Pero yun nga, talagang there's the lip service syndrome.

Aminin ko Doc, I truly did not like going to hospitals because I have a phobia for the sight of blood and I loathe the injection. But when baby Jo-Lo was born and I stayed for a week, I saw the hospital as a place for wellness too!

Dr. Emer said...

SIDNEY: Don't be afraid anymore, my friend. :)

ANN: Those who are in their elder years are some of the most difficult to convert to change to a healthier lifestyle. 'Konting tiyaga. ;)

WATSON: Thank God for making Jo-Lo come into your life. :)

tin-tin said...

OMG! i'm really a filipino. hahaha. i am guilty of numbers 1-4 :)

Sassafras said...

I used to be #4 and #5 pero where I am now, di na pupuwede ang self medication at ultimo TRETINOIN ay prescription medicine. nung pinatingnan ko ang baby ko sa doc dito and they didn't prescribe medicine, i did #5----and asked, you're not prescribing any medication? buti nalang at di ako tinarayan ng doctor dito, nag explain lang. :D

thestoryofhealing said...

This is so true Dr. Emer! :-D

Prudence said...

"Prescribe Me Something, Please!"

- Oh yeah, some patients do come to my clinic wanting antibiotics for mere viral cold or cough. The reason? So that it will go away ASAP. Or so that they can have me write them a medical certificate which they could submit to their office for sick leave. It really irritates me when for only a mere cold they want to absent themselves from work for as long as 3-5 days. Also, one thing that irritates me are those trying to be know-it-all, questioning how I arrived at my diagnosis, and even how I computed the dosage of my prescribed medication! I just don't understand it at times. If they think they know what medication to take and how much to take and wouldn't listen to the doctor otherwise, why come to the doctor? Oh yeah, I remember one reason: they need a prescription with PTR# so that they could use senior citizen ID for buying medicines.