I’ve heard too many times lately about doctors not listening, explaining their reasonings for actions or acting in ways that are intimidating. Hearing stories like this makes me so upset and sad, for many reasons. One of the biggest is that situations and relationships like this, can lead to you not getting the proper care that you need and deserve. Which isn’t cool in my book.
One of the best ways to prevent negative doctor situations and interactions is to create a partnership right from the beginning. Not only will this set the tone for your doctor-patient relationship, it will express to your doctor that you are an active participant in your medical treatment, and should be treated as part of the team.
1. Find a Doc that will support you
There are many doctor rating sites out there these days. When looking for a new doc, take some time, get a list of names from your insurance company and see if they have any reviews. This will give you a good indication of how they practice, how organized they are and how they interact with patients. Sometimes it will take meeting with a doctor and asking them questions like “do you welcome suggestions from your patients” or “how do you handle communication with your patients”. Answers to these questions will be very informational about how they practice.
A doctor who supports you, will welcome your suggestions and ask for them. A doctor that gets frustrated or impatient with your suggestions, isn’t open to hearing them at all.
2. Communicate your wishes
During the first appointment, communicate clearly that you are an active participant in your own health care. Make sure they are aware that you wish to have an active role in decision making and understand what is going on in treatment. Communicate how much, or how little, you want to know about any new diagnoses, and if you want to be involved in the diagnostic process. Sometimes not having a diagnosis can be scarier than hearing what your doctor is thinking. Make sure they know you’re ok with hearing their thought process and how much, if that is something you want.
3. Be prepared
Come to each appointment as prepared as possible. Think ahead of time if you have any questions, have experienced new symptoms or need any new medications or refills. The more direct and concise you can be about what’s going on, the better your doc will understand you. Similar situation applies for when you’re recounting your story and past history. There is so much in our stories, it’s easy for us to get off track sometimes. But the more you can be clear and direct about what happened, the easier it will be for your doc.
4. Ask questions
When a new treatment is offered or a new test suggested, make sure you know why you are getting that recommendation. Asking clarifying questions can be helpful. For example, if you don’t understand why a test is suggested, “I don’t understand why you want this test, can you explain it again?”. This approach can be used with any other part of your treatment as well. This also applies to any language you may not understand. Often when docs are talking with us, they use medical jargon that may be difficult to understand. Asking the same clarifying question can be helpful in this situation as well.
5. Advocate for yourself
Being your own biggest advocate is the best step you can make in your health journey. This means speaking up when you feel the need to or saying if you agree or disagree with the trajectory of your treatment. Speaking up to a doc (or anyone) can feel uncomfortable sometimes. But having one tough conversation can save a lot of hassle and potentially more uncomfortable conversations down the road.
Another part of being your own advocate is being on top of your health information, like insurance information, billing and records. Keeping your own file of information can be really helpful as well.
Creating these partnerships with your doctor at the start can be beneficial, for both you and your doctor. The more satisfied you are with your doctor and healthcare team, the easier your autoimmune journey will be.