Live Beyond LimitsTM
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Speaker | Consultant | Patient Advocate

Patient-Physician Communication

Cindy’s five “Be’s” for getting the support you need and the care you deserve.

 

Doctor consults with patient and family

Photo Credit: Rhoda Baer

1) Be Honest

It is tempting when asked certain health questions not to be completely honest. Who wants to admit they didn’t take their medicine as directed, or at all? Who wants to tell someone that every time they pass the fridge they reach in for an Oreo? Or that they can’t afford the treatment prescribed? No one! And yet, if we do not create an honest dialog with our provider, how can we expect him or her to help us? No matter how difficult it might be, or embarrassing it might feel, honesty is the best policy when it comes to getting the help we need.

2) Be Efficient

You’ve heard it suggested before and may or may not have tried it yourself, but it helps to make a list of your questions and a list of your medications to bring to appointments (in case you are like me and tend to forget things in the moment). I always think I’ll remember everything that has happened since my last visit, or the reasons I’ve been referred to a doctor, but often one topic takes precedence and I forget the others, leaving me chasing the doctor down the hall with a question I just remembered. This doesn’t work well for either of us.

3) Be Assertive

Many people confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness; they are not the same thing. No one wants to feel attacked, least of all your doctor, and this is what happens when we are aggressive. It puts the other person on the defensive. We want communication that is clear and direct. Just as we do not have crystal balls to read our own futures, our doctors do not have crystal balls to know what we want, what is most important to us, or how we feel about taking certain medications. It is up to us as patients to clearly communicate with providers what we want and what we are thinking.

4) Be Yourself

White coats make many people nervous, yet I believe that it helps a doctor to help us make medical decisions if he or she has a glimpse of who we are and what is important to us. Knowing the patient’s priorities in life can help guide decision making.

5) Be Patient

This is not my strong suit. I want things to happen immediately and this isn’t the case in healthcare today. I have had to adjust my expectations and practice patience. Although I do not believe that keeping people waiting is an acceptable norm for a doctor’s office, I do understand the occasional emergency and appreciate the wait being acknowledged. I have also learned that getting angry and taking it out on the doctor when he or she walks into the room doesn’t solve anything; it simply takes away from getting the care I need in the time I have and usually doesn’t do any good. I now take a good book, schedule enough time and do the best I can to be patient.