3 Things That Affect Our Communication with Doctors
Reading 3 Reasons Doctors Need to Understand Their Patients Health Beliefs and it struck me how important it is for us to have a good relationship with our doctor. We need to have communication with our doctor almost at the same level we have with our spouse; we need to be able to talk to our doctor about anything!
Unfortunately, there are so many issues that affect our communication with doctors:
1. We rarely get more than five minutes with a doctor. That’s not nearly enough time for us to even feel comfortable with them, let alone for us to reach a level of comfort where we can be totally honest with them and talk to them about our concerns. My primary Fibromyalgia provider is a Nurse Practitioner. I see him at least every three months. However, insurance requires that I see his supervising doctor at least once a year. That annual visit with that doctor is a waste of time for me. I don’t know him, he doesn’t know me, and I don’t feel comfortable talking to him. Unfortunately, that situation is too common.
2. Misunderstanding of information. Doctors are quick to use medical jargon, quick to dismiss patients with little or no information at all. If it wasn’t written on the little sheet they hand me to check out with, I wouldn’t know what my diagnosis is. And, with more and more doctors going completely paperless, I don’t even get to see that anymore. Doctors are fast to hand out prescriptions without telling you why they are doing so. And, it’s up to us (the patients) to ask them why they are prescribing the medication, and what they expect it to do.
3. Lack of Empathy. Many times doctors completely lack empathy. I can’t say I blame them. They see over 20 patients a day (that’s a low estimate for many), we are lucky if they remember our name or even take a moment to look over our chart before they walk in the room. Their time crunch is no excuse. That lack of empathy is obvious to when a doctor walks in the room; when they talk to the wall behind me instead of to my face. If I feel like a doctor doesn’t care, I have no incentive to share my issues with him or to ask him for his help.
[Tweet “We should be able to talk to our doctors openly and honestly about our health.”]
There are probably many more reasons we aren’t as open with our doctors as we need to be. And, unfortunately of the three I mentioned there is only one that the patient has any control over, and that is our understanding of information. It’s up to us to ask questions. Ask the doctor what your diagnosis is. Ask your doctor why they are prescribing a specific medication, and what they hope it will accomplish. Ask the doctor about potential side effects of said medications, and ask them what the next step is if that doesn’t work. Don’t let them rush you out of the room. Take control. And, if you find yourself facing a doctor who lacks empathy, seek a new doctor.
Ken McKim says
Well said. We had to shop for good doctors for quite awhile. One made the mistake of making Corina cry and telling her he would not treat her. It was my day off from work, so she called me sobbing while she was still in their office. I put on my suit, went down to their offices and had a meeting with the office manager and clinical director. By the time I left, I had apologies from both of them and a new doctor (and a new appointment the next day, when usually it takes weeks to get into this place) for my wife.
That’s some good advocating. I wish I’d done that with the first dr I saw for my shoulder. Well, actually I did eventually call the office manager and report how he acted, talked to me and let them know I’d be going elsewhere. I was glad I did because the doctor I found after that was so much better.
Ms. Rants says
You make some good points here. Related to your first point, not only am I sometimes not comfortable with my doctor, but I don’t know if they’re comfortable with me. Some doctors do not like to have educated patients. If I mention tests or treatments that I have read about, how will they respond? If I suggest less conventional treatments, will they take me seriously? I can’t trust them until I know they’ll respect me.
Absolutely true! Too often it takes a lot of time to figure that out. Some doctors just hate having a patient make suggestions, they don’t take it as you are an educated patient holding up your part of the bargain but rather that you are stepping on their toes and trying to do their job for them. Guess what doc! No one knows my body like I do, so I’m gonna do the research!