For Your Health
8 Ways To Make Your Physician a Better Doc …
… Which will make YOU a better patient!
On House, a team of gifted specialists spends an entire week working on a single case. When you get the bum’s rush out of your doctor’s office after a measly 15-minute consultation, you realize how far the acclaimed medical drama strays from day-to-day reality. With dwindling reimbursements from insurance companies and the government, doctors are unlikely to be able to spend more time with you anytime in the future. So how do you make the most of an imperfect situation?
Go electronic. Ask your doctor whether you can take care of routine concerns via texting and e-mailing. In a recent study, nearly 40 percent of doctors said they communicated with patients online, more than double the number that were doing so just five years ago. A few insurance companies, like Aetna and Cigna, even pay for online office visits, and more are sure to follow.
Share a session. Encourage your doctor to offer shared medical appointments. Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Boston has been a leader in developing this cost-saving option where up to 15 patients who share a condition or health issue spend 90 minutes with a physician. In the best scenario, your peers ask questions you didn’t think to ask yourself.
Trust the physician’s assistant. Your doctor does. Some patients, like my mom, resist having conversations with anybody but the doc. But the staffer she/he designates to handle patient communications, whether it’s a nurse, a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant, can be a lifeline. She can spend more time with you than your physician can, and has just as much knowledge about many medications and procedures. When my husband had prostate cancer, the physician’s assistant helped us troubleshoot a variety of issues regarding treatment. The response was swift and the advice was sound. Even my mom now swears by the information gatekeeper at her internist.
Educate yourself. Treat your doctor as the ultimate expert on your condition and reserve your time with her/him for critical questions. Meantime, educate yourself using trusted sources like mayoclinic.com and association websites – American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society. Ask the doctor (or the physician’s assistant) what books and web resources are best for getting you up to speed.
Formulate an agenda. Bring more than a written list of questions to your next appointment: formulate a game plan. Make like a lawyer and have an opening statement prepared – a concise outline of your symptoms and concerns. Tell your doctor you sympathize with her/his schedule restraints and want to make max use of limited time. Then do just that.
Be honest. Your doctor can’t treat you successfully if she/he doesn’t know what’s really going on. This is one person you really need to level with, so resist the temptation to shave a few drinks a week off your alcohol consumption, or to pretend you don’t really smoke. Own up to your bad eating habits and all those other naughty behaviors you’d rather not talk about.
Ask about follow-up questions. Leave the office with contact info and a clear plan for how to handle any minor problems or concerns that crop up. Knowing how to proceed can sidestep a lot of time on hold listing to Kenny G.
Check your temper at the door. Yes, it’s frustrating when time is so short, but don’t allow yourself to become a problem patient. A recent study found that physicians who reported having higher numbers of difficult patients were 12 times as likely to experience burnout.