Communicating Well with Your Doctor
When it seems like your doctor is too busy to talk to you, or if you’ve been recommended a treatment that just doesn’t seem right, what should you do? How do you handle it when you don’t agree with your doctor? What should you say if you feel like your doctor isn’t listening to your concerns? What should you do if you feel rushed?
When your doctor seems rushed….
There’s no way around it: many doctors today are extremely rushed. Most of them would love to be able to spend more time with their patients, but it’s simply not possible. There are things you can do to get the most out of your visit, even if that visit is shorter than you’d like or expect.
► Write down the reason or reasons for your visit. This helps you keep your concerns clear in your mind. It’s easy to forget what your main points are as soon as you get in the doctor’s office. That can lead to rambling, and suddenly the doctor’s looking at her watch, time is almost up and you haven’t gotten to the point.
If you have a few things you want to talk about, tell your doctor about all of them at once. Don’t be surprised if he suggests addressing one concern in one visit and scheduling another visit for any additional issues.
► Avoid “door knob” comments. Don’t hold important information back until you’re walking out the door. “Oh, by the way, my knee has been hurting me terribly for nearly a month now.” This is sure to cause frustration for you and your doctor. Sometimes we tend to put off discussing the things we’re most worried about because we don’t want to hear bad news. But this last-minute approach isn’t the way to go.
Talking about differences can bridge the gap
You can be respectful of your doctor and express disagreement or doubt at the same time. It’s true that your doctor has gone through a lot of training. You can still show appreciation for that and talk about your own anxieties and feelings.
► Share your own thoughts and ideas. You may want to say something like, “I know this blood pressure medication will probably help my blood pressure come down, but I don’t understand why I can’t try to exercise first to see whether that helps.” Your doctor’s explanation should help to put you at ease, and that alone will help you feel better and give you confidence in your treatment plan.
► If you’re feeling a “culture clash,” speak up! The world is becoming more and more diverse. There’s a good chance that you and your doctor may not belong to the same race, ethnicity or culture. If there’s a home remedy that your family has been using for ages, tell your doctor about it. Don’t be ashamed. Doing this can express trust on your part. Your doctor will probably appreciate it. Then the two of you can talk about whether the remedy is helping you, whether you should continue taking it with your current treatment plan, etc. Sharing your cultural beliefs about health with your doctor will actually help you save time in the long run, because you’ll get to the heart of your issues more quickly.
Think of yourself as a partner in your care
A lot of times, people feel intimidated by their doctor. There’s no question that being in a doctor’s exam room can make you feel vulnerable. It’s easy to take on a more passive role when you feel this way.
► Ask plenty of questions. If your doctor prescribes a drug, you don’t have to simply take the prescription and leave. Ask what the drug will do for you, how it will help, what the side effects are. Ask about your condition—why you have it, what kinds of lifestyle changes you should make, etc. Don’t allow questions to go unasked.
If you’re still not satisfied…
If you honestly feel like you’re doing your part to be honest, straightforward and respectful with your doctor, but you still feel as if the doctor is not listening to you or not addressing your main concerns, it may be time to look for another doctor. Sometimes personalities just don’t go together. Your friend may have the same doctor as you and be extremely happy with his treatment, but for some reason you can’t feel the same way. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you’ve done your best to take an active, responsible role in your care.
The American Academy of Pediatrics; Children First.