You’ve waited several weeks to see your doctor, but after you leave the office you still have questions and you don’t quite understand your diagnosis. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to improve your relationship with your physician.
A good physician-patient relationship can go a long way in helping you stay healthy — and getting the care you need when you’re not. Patients who take an active role in their care may not only feel more satisfied with their doctors, but also more in control over their own health and well-being.
Communication, respect and trust are keys to any healthy relationship. Here are a few recommendations to help you build a more beneficial one with your physician.
1. Be prepared for the appointment
Taking a few minutes to prepare for an appointment with your physician can go a long way toward making the most of your time together. “Before your visit, make a list of your symptoms and how long each has been present,” suggests Julia Shrivastava, MD, a family medicine specialist at Scripps Clinic Del Mar. “Also list all prescription and non-prescription medications you’re taking, including vitamins and supplements, and the dosages for each.” If you have had lab work or tests done and have the results, bring them along.
2. Use the time with your doctor wisely
Bring a written list of questions or issues you would like to discuss with your doctor. Dr. Shrivastava recommends prioritizing them and starting with the most important one first, since doctors often have limited time to spend with patients. Plus, a written list can help your doctor address any questions that you don’t have time to cover later, either through a phone call or follow-up appointment for more complex issues.
3. Bring a companion to your appointment
“Bringing a friend or family member along can be extremely helpful when it comes to asking questions and clarifying information, especially for older patients or anyone who is nervous about seeing the doctor,” says Dr. Shrivastava. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, patients who had someone to help them communicate with their physicians were 50 percent more likely to be satisfied with their doctor’s ability to give information.
4. Be honest with your physician
Your physician needs full disclosure in order to provide the best possible care. If you are not honest about things like having a couple of cocktails daily or occasionally skipping your medications, your physician won’t have accurate information, and that can affect your care. Be candid, and don’t feel embarrassed. Your doctor isn’t perfect, and he or she doesn’t expect you to be, either.
5. Be sure you understand your care plan
Before you leave the doctor’s office, make sure all of your questions have either been answered (or will be at a later time). Have a clear understanding of everything your doctor has told you about your condition and what you need to do, such as getting lab tests, taking medications, caring for yourself at home or scheduling follow-up care with a specialist or other medical professional. “If you’re not quite sure about something, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification before you leave,” says Dr. Shrivastava. “If you have questions once you get home, call the office.
6. Communicate with your physician
Scripps Clinic and Scripps Coastal Medical Center patients have access to MyScripps, the online patient portal where you can check test results, review your medical history and leave messages for your physician. “This is a very useful tool for both patients and physicians,” says Dr. Shrivastava.
7. Follow your care plan
Your doctor can prescribe the best medication available, but if you don’t take it as scheduled, it won’t work. Do your part by following your recommended care plan, which may include things like monitoring your blood sugar, getting more exercise or taking your blood pressure. If a physician’s recommendation doesn’t sound doable or your medication isn’t working, let him or her know. It may be time to re-evaluate your care plan.