I remember when I was younger I had to fire a doctor. She wasn’t very easy to talk to and I was young so that made it even worse and more uncomfortable because I felt like I couldn’t open up and talk to her. Then when I asked questions about my health, she acted as if my questions were dumb and stupid.
No wonder people have issues talking with their doctors!
Well, you know what I’m going to say first…if you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor, fire him/her and get a new one. Yes, you have to shop around for a doctor just like you do everything else!
You see, if you want to receive appropriate medical care and learn how to follow through on your doctor’s recommendations, clear communication is essential. However, that’s easier said than done, especially when the typical office visit is growing shorter and shorter. Sheesh!
Your doctor will probably see you for 15 minutes or less, and electronic records are replacing some of the discussion that used to occur face to face. On top of that, there may be strong emotions and embarrassment that go along with any disturbing symptoms or just the fact that you don’t understand what they’re saying.
For instance, when I had to have surgery to get a cyst removed, the doc was talking way too fast and once he was done, he was about to leave the room.
“Wait, wait, wait, doc!” I exclaimed. “I’m not done and I have questions. Take a seat bruh.” (Yep, I called him bruh because at this point I was frustrated.)
I hated that I had to command his attention for just a couple minutes to understand everything he was saying. I mean, this is a life or death situation, er at least it was in my book when you talk about putting me to sleep and there may be risks. It IS surgery after all!
As a patient, you have the right to let them know what you’re thinking and ask as many questions as you can while you’re in their presence. Don’t be intimated by the white coat. It’s just a uniform like the guy who serves your fries in the drive through.
So don’t be nervous. I want you to learn how to talk with your doctor more effectively. Try these suggestions for choosing a physician you’ll feel comfortable with and communicating with her with ease.
Choosing Your Doctor
- Check social media. Take a look at your doctor’s Twitter feed or Facebook page for a preview that may suggest their personality and approach. Many health professionals use social media to educate their patients and answer common questions.
- Look for online ratings. Ratings and reviews are not just for restaurants and hotels. Sites and portals like Health Grades allow you to find and see reviews of doctors from other patients. Internet services are now rating doctors and the criteria usually includes being friendly and easy to talk with. Just remember that these are opinions rather than facts. You may want to consult additional sources like referrals from friends and other health care providers.
- Focus on the team. Pay attention to how your doctor interacts with colleagues as well as you. Some studies suggest that up to 80% of serious medical errors are caused by miscommunications between caregivers.
- Ask your insurance company. Your insurance carrier often has insight into which doctor may be best for you as well. Search their site or call ’em up and tell them what you’re looking for and they can help you search for a doctor too.
Communicating with Your Doctor
- Set priorities. Given how short doctor visits are today, ensure you squeeze in the main issues first and then move on to other issues down the list. Notice I mentioned a list…you need to have one with you so you won’t forget what to talk with the doctor about!
- Volunteer information. Your doctor may be as hesitant as you to bring up sensitive subjects. Share any details that could be relevant to receiving the treatment you need.
- Ask questions. More than 65% of medical schools now teach communications, but some practitioners still tend to speak in lectures. Asking questions creates a discussion and clarifies your concerns.
- Pay attention to his actions and language. Check for encouragement and engagement. Do they speak with you respectfully and value your input? Or are they looking at their watch and jetting for the door while you’re still talking? Voice your concerns for their hurriedness as they may not even know they’re doing it.
- Sum it up. Restating what your doctor said is an effective way to show whether you really understood each other. Try giving a quick recap before you walk out the door.
- Take notes. Jot down what your doctor tells you. Use a notepad or your phone. Some practitioners may even let you record the sessions. Trust me, you don’t want to be left wondering what he said when you get home because it may take some time to get back in touch with him.
- Accept uncertainty. Encourage your doctor to be candid by letting him know that you can handle the truth. You may be able to avoid unnecessary tests and prescriptions that are unlikely to provide clear cut answers or significant relief.
- Discuss risks. Most procedures have risks as well as benefits. Be polite but firm about needing to hear the full picture.
- Bring support. If you’re nervous about going to the doctor’s office alone, take along someone you trust like your spouse or a friend. Patient advocates can also facilitate discussions between you and your doctor. Your employer may have an employee assistance program or check for other groups who provide patient assistance as well.
Talk to me…
We talk to our friends and family and even strangers sometimes more confidently than we do our doctors. But they are the ones we really need great communication with as it affects our health and well-being.
I challenge you to be an engaged patient who makes sound health decisions for you and your family. When you’re knowledgeable, assertive, and courteous, you help your doctor to provide you with the best quality care possible!
If you’re still nervous about talking to your doctor after this, contact me because maybe I can help. We can role play. 🙂