By Dr. Bryan Weinstein and Drew Bufalini
Your doctor might have the bedside manner of McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy, an office papered with Ivy League degrees, X-Ray eyes and hearing so sensitive he can detect blood pressure changes…but unless you’re a good patient, there isn’t much he can do for you. Why? Because it takes both a good doctor anda good patient to make the doctor/patient relationship function to your benefit. For example, suppose a doctor prescribes an anti-depressant. The patient takes it as required until he begins feeling better…and then stops. By the time of his next appointment, he’s wondering why he feels depressed again. The doctor did his part, but the patient did not.
Whether you’re going to your primary care doctor for a minor problem or are seeing numerous physicians for a chronic illness or injury (like a #TBI or #chronicpain), being a good patient can mean the difference between sickness and health; between recovery and relapse; between living a fulfilling life and suffering a sedentary, painful existence. Getting the most from your physicians means more work for you as a patient, but it’s the best way to achieve a positive outcome from your time with the doctor. Here are a few tips you can use to maximize this time:
1. Be on time. You know how much you hate waiting to see the doctor? He doesn’t want to wait for you either. Doctors generally have a good reason for being late – checking your medical history, spending extra time with another patient or doing some last minute research. A late patient has a cascade effect on the rest of the doctor’s schedule for the day – causing him to be late for the rest of his appointments that day.
2. Be prepared.
· Bring any pertinent medical records, identification, paperwork and insurance information with you to the appointment.
· If you have a long list of symptoms or a number of problems to discuss, organize your thoughts on paper before your appointment.
· Always bring a list of your medications that includes dosage and frequency.
3. Be honest. Even if you think your problem is embarrassing. If you’re dishonest, the physician won’t know how to treat your real problem. Communication is paramount in doctor/patient relationships – your doctor can only work with the knowledge you provide about yourself.
4. Be nice to the staff! Nurses, assistants, receptionists, schedulers – even billers – are all there to help you. Treat them with courtesy and respect.
5. Be informed. The internet is filled with medical education website for the lay person. For example, sites like healthgrades.com rate and provide extensive background information on most doctors. WebMD.com covers conditions ad nauseum. This is not to say that you should self-diagnose…merely that the more you know about your doctor and your potential condition, the more informed you’ll be in the long run.
6. Unplug. Don’t take calls or respond to text messages while you’re with the doctor.
7. Take notes. No one has a perfect memory. Shore yours up against forgetting by writing down all of your physician’s recommendations and instructions. Bring a trusted friend to your appointment to jot down every salient point your doctor makes.
8. Be compliant with medications and treatment recommendations. If you can’t afford your medications, tests or treatments - tell your doctor. There are often programs to help people in these situations. Check out: www.lifeskillsvillage.com/resource-links.html for numerous options.
9. Don’t rely on a pill to cure all ills. Quitting smoking, exercising, eating a balanced diet – these can all improve your overall health. When your doctor recommends a lifestyle change, follow instructions and there may be fewer pills in your future.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to your health. If possible, bring a list of your questions and concerns to the appointment.
11. Know your rights. You are not at the mercy of your physician. Every patient has rights that can be exercised as needed:
· You have the right to "fire" your physicians. If you do not like the way your physicians treat you, if you do not trust them, or if you do not believe they are providing you with the best possible care, you can leave and find a new doctor.
· You have the right to be told about alternative courses of treatment, even if your health insurance may not cover them or you may not be able to afford them
· You have the right to refuse consent for any procedure or treatment. If you refuse consent, you may be asked to read and sign a form indicating that refusal.
· You have the right to leave the hospital or care facility against medical advice. You will be likely have to sign a waiver form indicating that you are doing so on your own free will and against the recommendations of your medical providers.
· You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect in all matters related to your health.
Of course, you could always show up twenty minutes late sans shower and demand to be seen immediately; call the receptionist a few choice names you picked up online; lie to your doctor about your symptoms; demand medication for a self-diagnosed condition; and then threaten him with legal action if he doesn’t cure you immediately. See how far that gets you.
Whether you’re a physician or a patient, please add your own tips to this list by adding a comment.
Dr. Robert Lamberts of Augusta, Georgia from blog: Musings of a Distractible Mind
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About the Doc
Dr. Bryan Weinstein is a practicing psychiatrist with certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has practiced psychiatric pharmacology and psychotherapy since 1997. Dr. Weinstein is the CEO of Life Skills Village.