You deserve a doctor that you can work with on your healthcare needs. It really is a team effort. You have your job to do and your doctor has their job to do and the goal is the best health possible. Your doctor is not a mind reader and the “Oh, by the way”… comments at the end of the visit frustrate and piss doctors off.
Don’t do that. You expect your doctor to be professional, competent, and willing to help you. Your doctor expects you to be professional, competent, and willing to help them help you. Would you go into a meeting unprepared? I wouldn’t. I would have all my ducks in the same pond and probably in a row. How about you?
Preparation makes a good patient
Prep work makes the visit go so much smoother and you will get a lot more accomplished. The reality is that you have about 8 minutes with your doctor. You are in your body 24-7 and you know when something is not right. You may not know what is wrong, but you can write down the clues for your doctor to better diagnose you.
Learn to become a better advocate for yourself and your loved ones. You deserve the best care possible and your doctor deserves your help. Never lie to your doctor or your lawyer.
We must address Dr. Google. We all know that we are going to look up our issues or symptoms online. That is perfectly fine. You do need to be careful what sites you are using to find your information. Use reputable sites.
Some Reputable Sites for You to Use
National Institutes of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Use these sites to gather information and possibilities. Be curious and learn but, don’t expect to be your own diagnostician. That takes a lot of skill and practice which your doctor has and that is what they are good at. Work together. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made with parts being connected in ways we don’t always understand. Take referred pain for example. Referred pain is pain at a location OTHER than the site or origin of the painful stimulus. You have pain in your back and you find out it is from a problem with your pancreas. You could be having a heart attack but the only pain you have is in your jaw. You have pain in your upper neck or shoulder that is actually an injury or problem with your liver or gallbladder.
What is fair to expect from a good doctor?
· Willingness to listen to you and your needs
· Willingness to work with you on your healthcare needs
· Smart and competent in their particular area of specialty
· Their ability to state when they don’t know what is going on, but they are going to try to find out
· Their ability to refer you when needed
· Reasonable wait times – your time is valuable too
· That the staff is friendly and competent
· That they are comfortable with you asking questions
· That they explain everything in terms you understand
· They are concerned about your home and work situations
· They treat you with dignity and respect
What is fair for your doctor to expect from you?
· You show up for your appointment prepared
· You are signed in and ready for your appointment on time
· You get to the point of your visit for today
· You take your medication as prescribed
· You let them know if the medication seems to be working or not working with a call back after an agreed-upon time for that information
· You take personal responsibility for your choices that impact your health AND are willing to modify or change them when your health is at risk (with some help and guidance)
· Give truthful and accurate information
· That you are well informed about your current diagnoses and possible complications along with information on what you can do to mitigate those complications.
Have a more productive office visit by doing the following:
Prepare ahead of time
· Write down all of your medications, supplements, herbs, and any other products that you use/take regularly.
· List why you are taking the medications or over-the-counter medications. You may be taking a medication off-label or from another prescriber. Off-label means other than its approved or intended use.
· Make a list of your medications that need to be refilled and if you need a 30 days supply or three months supply.
· Know the goal of this appointment. What do you want to get out of today’s meeting?
· For a yearly or regular visit, lab tests may be done after the visit. Find out if you need to make a follow-up appointment to discuss the results or if the results will be mailed to you or available for viewing on a patient portal. You need to follow up on these results, if you have not received a call or information on the results from your provider.
For a “new” issue or problem – write down the symptoms and be as descriptive as possible.
o When did it start?
o What is happening?
o How do you feel?
o Where is the pain and what type of pain is it (sharp, dull, constant, waves, colicky, intermittent)?
o Does anything make it better or worse?
o What you have tried already.
Bring someone with you and take notes. It is hard to hear everything. Ask questions when you are not sure or need more clarity.
Be open to a diagnosis that you have not considered
I get it, it is hard to not say…I have plantar fasciitis. Maybe, you do, but what if it is really Achilles tendonitis? You have pre-disposed your doctor into looking at that and possibly treating it instead of what you really do have. The treatment approaches are different. If you aren’t being treated for the correct thing, you won’t get better. When you don’t get better…what happens? You get mad. Sometimes you call for a follow-up appointment and sometimes you don’t and keep hurting. Try your best to stick to your signs and symptoms and let them do further testing.
Back when I was young, I was having constant chest pain. The only things that I could figure out were pleurisy or a heart attack. It hurt like a mother. I went to the doctor and described the pain, the location, duration, etc. I won’t lie, I was concerned as I was too young for this stuff to be happening, but you never know. Turns out it was costochondritis. I took my anti-inflammatories for 10 days and got much better. So, you see, what I thought it could be was not what it was at all.
If no better … call for a follow-up
If you have completed treatment and you are not better, call for a follow-up and search further. It is the practice of medicine, there are no absolutes. Your doctor is doing their best to provide you with answers and the best treatment available. It is up to you to let your doctor know that it did not work. Maybe you need a medication change or a therapy change. You may even need to be reassessed for another diagnosis. Your signs and symptoms can mimic other diseases or conditions and those things will need to be ruled out.