Monday, September 03, 2012

How to talk so your doctor will listen

A doctor’s time is precious and he only has a few minutes to spend with you. How can you make sure that you can make the most of these few minutes ?  It helps if you are empathetic and learn to look at life through your doctors viewpoint.

Doctors are busy people and appreciate thoughtful , considerate patients who have prepared for their visit. The more the time and energy you are willing to put into preparing for your  visit, the more your doctor will appreciate your efforts and reciprocate !

Please do your homework so that you are well prepared. This can be hard to do when you are ill, so it’s a good idea to do this on a proactive basis – maybe on the day before your birthday, so you remember to do this every year. Your medical records should be updated and arranged in reverse chronological order with a one-page summary , so your doctor can quickly review the salient features.

Make a list of questions you want answers to.  However, don't go with this laundry list and expect your doctor to answer all your questions for you. Ideally, you should do your own research , so that you can answer the easy ones for yourself , You can put a line through this, so that your doctor doesn't need to answer them again. It's helpful to show your doctor that you've done your homework , and that you are well prepared. Not only will he respect you more , you will be able to take the level of your conversation one grade higher , so that you can then focus on what's important to you, rather than waste time on a lot of background material, which may not be very helpful because this is information you already know.

It's helpful to make a friend in the doctors clinic, so you have an “insider” who has a soft corner for you. This will allow you to learn a little bit more about how the clinic functions - when is the doctor extremely busy ? and when is he relatively free ?

Each doctor has a preferred mode of communication , and it's worth finding out what this is . Is he happy to answer questions using e-mail ? Or would he rather that you come in to the clinic ? Is there someone on the staff who can answer routine questions on the phone ?

Doctors like being productive, efficient and effective and well informed patients can help them to achieve these goals. Doctors will naturally have a soft corner for these patients, who then get treated like VIPs !
It's helpful to understand some of the medical jargon. Doctors are much more likely to respect patients who know what's happening to them, rather than someone who's completely clueless.  If you have done your homework prior to the visit, this signals to the doctor that you're a well-informed patient who has something valuable to contribute and he is much more likely to factor in your preferences when making decisions about your medical care.

It's worthwhile getting a reference from someone whom the doctor respects. This can often be an existing patient of the doctor . While I'm not suggesting that you need to drop names in order to get good medical care , if the doctor knows that you have been sent to him by a faithful patient , you're far more likely to be treated with personal care.

It's a good idea to take a friend or a relative for your first visit. This person can help you make better sense of what your doctor says to you. You are quite likely to forget a lot of what the doctor tells you during the consultation , and this person can help improve your recall.

I think it's very unfair for patients to expect doctors to do all the work for them. While doctors are hard-working, they are appreciative of patients who are willing to put in some effort on their own. After all, if you talk about the doctor-patient partnership , patients need to remember that they need to contribute as partners , rather than be passive recipients and expect the doctor to do all the heavy lifting . As with any other relationship , you are likely to get as much out of this one as you're willing to put in !

The good news is that because there are very few thoughtful patients, if you are someone who's willing to be respectful of the doctor , your chances of getting VIP medical care will improve considerably, as you will stand out as an exceptional patient !

There is a lot of literature on how doctors need to be empathetic ; and why they need to spend time and energy in understanding the patient's cultural background and what the patient expects. I think it's equally important that patients need to be empathetic, so that she can see things from the doctor’s perspective. Doctors are humans too, and patients who care about fulfilling their doctor’s needs ( for respect and gratitude) will find that doctors will care much more about meeting their needs ( for kind and efficient medical care) as well !

Do this for purely selfish reasons. The more you respect your doctor , the more your doctor will respect you . This is simple common sense !  As the bestseller, Likeonomics suggests , most of us go out of our way to be nice to people we like – and if you can get your doctor to like you, you will be far more likely to get better care . You want your doctor to treat you as a person, not just as another number.

As with any other relationship, this involves a bit of give-and-take ; and the more you invest in it , the more you will receive. The beauty is that the rewards of these efforts is huge , so that the return you get on your investment can be tremendous !

The bestseller , Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus ,highlighted that while both husband and wife are on the same side , they have difficulty communicating because they seemed to come from different planets and seemed to talk different languages. Sometimes this is true of doctor and patient as well ! Both have different concerns  and priorities , and the trick is to get the doctor on your side , so that he can see things from your point of view, and is willing to do what it takes , so that you can achieve your goals.  In order to do this, you need to understand what makes your doctor tick !

When you are sick , you want your doctor to drop everything else and focus all his time and energy on you. This is a tall order. A doctor is a busy professional , with lots of other patients to see. However, if you come across as a pleasant person , who is reasonable and understanding and can see things from the doctors perspective , he is much more likely to go out of his way to help you get better ! At the end of the day , Information Therapy is what can really make a difference ! It’s not just about understanding your disease, it’s also about understanding your doctor !

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