Is It Me or My Doctor?!
You: I am very frustrated with my doctor! I feel rushed, I have questions, I’m not sure what I am supposed to do next…
Your doctor: I don’t think she is listening, she keeps interrupting me, will she make those changes…
Let’s face it, we have to figure out how to work with our doctor in order to get good health care.
Gone are the days when the doctor took total charge of the visit and we just listened and did what he said. Today, it is important that the visit be a 2-way partnership, with the patient clearly stating problems, worries, or desires; the doctor offering his or her expertise and experience; then patient and doctor together making decisions about treatment or next steps.
Bring a list of all the medications, doses and times you take them clearly written out. Include prescription, over-the-counter medications, supplements, and vitamins.
Keep a notebook
Page 1: Make 2 columns. Column 1 is “Questions” and column 2 is “Answers”. Write down your questions in column 1 and the doctor’s answers in column 2. List your questions in the order of importance.
Don’t leave the problems that are uncomfortable to talk about last, like, depression, sexual issues, or incontinence. If you can’t talk to your doctor, who can you talk to? Believe me, they’ve heard it all!
BE FOCUSED Bring a friend or relative that you feel comfortable with and ask them to take notes. You can concentrate on talking and listening. Ask your friend or relative to help you stay on track.
BE PRESENT AND ON TIME If you wear glasses or a hearing aid, please wear them. Give yourself extra time to get there and be on time and ready to go into the exam room. I know, I know, “but they are always late…” That’s right, they’re always late, but you’re not.
BE ASSERTIVE Update your doctor on what’s been happening, and answer questions honestly. Bending the truth because you are embarrassed or feel you ought to be doing better is not helpful. If you don’t understand what your doctor is recommending, ask questions until you are clear. It’s fine to ask why a particular medication is being prescribed, whether there are cheaper alternatives, or whether a certain procedure or medicine is really necessary. When trying to decide which course to take, ask the doctor what he or she would tell his or her own parent to do in this situation. There are no dumb questions! If you don’t ask, your doctor will just assume you know.
FOLLOW THROUGH After your questions and issues are discussed and recorded in your notebook, title a page “Follow-up”. Record the next steps as clearly as you can and follow them! If after you get home and you have some lingering questions or you decide to follow a different course, call the doctor’s office to get clarity or discuss your change of heart. Sometimes it is easier to ask for your doctor’s nurse to have this follow up discussion. He or she can then pass on your issues to your doctor. Remember, this is a partnership. If your doctor did his best to help you clearly understand your issues and why he is prescribing his treatment, then it is your responsibility to follow it.