When you talk about your relationship status, you probably aren’t thinking about your primary care physician. This relationship, however, is one of the most important ones in your life. In sickness and in health, your primary care doctor is there for you through it all and the better you can communicate with each other, the better care your doctor can provide for you. But how do you build a rapport with your doctor?
As with all relationships, communication between you and your primary care physician needs to be a two-way street.
“The more you invest into your doctor’s appointments, the more you’ll get out of them,” says Dan Dworsky, MD, an internist at Scripps Clinic. “Your doctor doesn’t know what your life is like outside of their office. You have to communicate openly and honestly about your health, your diet and your lifestyle.”
While it can be intimidating and even embarrassing to openly talk about your health concerns, it’s important to discuss even the most intimate health problems. Remember that your doctor won’t be embarrassed, shocked or offended by even your most embarrassing symptoms.
“Your doctor has seen or heard it all,” adds Dr. Dworsky. “If you have a hard time talking about something, write it down. The more your doctor knows about your health issues, the better the treatment options they can offer you.”
Open, honest communication is just the first building block to a healthy relationship. Here are some tips to help you and your physician make the most of your appointments.
1. Participate in your care
All relationships require active participation to develop, which can go beyond sharing your symptoms and concerns.
“Your doctor wants to be a partner in your care and find the best options for you,” notes Dr. Dworsky. “It helps to know your medical history, ask questions and let them know of any barriers that could prevent you from following health advice.”
2. Listen to your doctor’s advice
It’s not always easy to listen to advice, particularly when that advice is to change an aspect of your lifestyle or diet. Your doctor’s advice, however, is designed to help improve your health, and in some case, eliminate symptoms to see if there are other underlying health issues.
You may find that you have conflicting advice coming from friends, family or even the Internet. Remember that your doctor has the medical expertise and information on your health history to give you the best suggestions for how to improve your health.
3. Take your medications
Prescribed medications are only helpful if you take them. Many medications to manage short-term or chronic conditions need to be taken on a schedule for them to have the maximum benefit. If it’s difficult to remember to take a medication, try setting an alarm or a reminder on your calendar. If you avoid taking a medication because it’s difficult to take or because of the side effects, talk to your doctor to see if there are alternatives.
4. Be courteous
You may not feel like being friendly or polite when you’re sick, but courtesy goes a long way toward building a better relationship with your doctor.
“It’s always easier to communicate with someone when they are polite,” notes Dr. Dworsky. “When we feel more comfortable around a patient, the patient feels more comfortable too. It makes it a more pleasant, productive visit for everyone.”