“You can fire your doctor, or fire him or her up. Help your doctor be a better doctor for you during your visits. Become more efficient and prepared without wasting precious appointment time.”
Mrs. Lamb tells everyone that she LOVES her doctor! Sometimes she is lucky enough to be kept waiting in Dr. Badside’s reception room for TWO hours past her appointment time. To top it off, the receptionist keeps to herself and never smiles. This gives Mrs. Lamb the opportunity to catch up on all the old, torn fashion magazines and Hollywood gossip rags from 2008 that are spread across the table in the corner of the room. There Mrs. Lamb sits, turning the dog eared pages until, with a whistle in her voice, the receptionist announces that the doctor is ready and herds Mrs. Lamb into a room down the hall.
Finally, Mrs. Lamb is graced with the presence of Dr. Badside. He must think eye contact is over-rated because he never makes it. She can tell the doctor must be good because he is so very busy. He always rushes to his prescription pad before she has a chance to finish her list of ailments. Mrs. Lamb feels bad that she once made him so frustrated by asking all of those “stupid” questions. He was particularly agitated and frowned when Mrs. Lamb mentioned what she read on the internet. His patronizing tone reminds her that he is the expert, and she is not capable of making the right decisions about her own health. It’s good that he wants to see her in another year because she didn’t have a chance to tell him about another problem before he ran out of the room barking for her to go to the front desk to schedule. Well, it’ll wait. Mrs. Lamb just feels privileged that Dr. Badside is willing to have her as his patient.
How about you? Are you in the right office? Do you like the care your doctor provides to you? On a more personal level, do you like your doctor? Out of fairness to health care professionals, many times less than optimal interaction with a patient is not intended. It may result from the rush produced by an unpredictable back-up or an oversight. Or, he or she might not mean to be gruff or impersonal, but the clock is ticking, and there are a lot more patients to be seen. But what is amazing is how people stand by their doctors even when they do not like his or her treatment and/or bedside manner. Unless you do not have a choice, such as when no other doctor is available, it may be in your best interest to fire your doctor!
As a patient, it could help to view yourself as a customer. In a restaurant, retail store or bank, if you are not happy with the service, you can either go to the customer service desk and voice your concerns, or leave, never to return. If you think that your doctor is a total jerk, and there is no chance to reconcile the relationship, then take your business elsewhere. If you are not happy, but believe that the doctor can still serve you, speak up and give him or her the chance to better meet your needs. It is called a doctor-patient relationship for a reason. You need to play your part... even if it is a new concept for you to speak up to a person whom you may view as an authority figure. Your doctor’s response will clearly indicate your next move and answer the question, “Should I stay, or should I go?” Does he or she regard you with respect or disdain? Are you in a relationship or dictatorship?
If you feel as if you should stay, use the following examples to help improve you doctor-patient relationship (without bruising his or her ego and causing a defensive reaction). It is important to stress how you feel and what your needs are without pointing fingers and creating confrontation. The right approach can help your doctor refocus and start seeing you more as a customer. You will receive better care and your doctor will retain a good patient who is engaged in his or her own health.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand the recommendation and/or what’s wrong with me. Would you mind explaining that to me once more... It’s very important to me that we are on the same page.”
“I see that you are very busy today. Is there a time when I can come back or call so we can discuss this further?”
“I am happy to know that the medication is there to help, but I am very motivated to make changes. I was wondering if you could recommend a way that I can alter my lifestyle instead of taking the medication?”
“Doctor, what other options do you feel I should know about?”
“Would you mind checking this one more time?”
“Doctor, thanks again for recommending chiropractic care. What was the name of that super doctor of chiropractic?” (Sorry, I had to throw that one in.)
You can fire your doctor, or fire him or her up. Help your doctor be a better doctor for you during your visits. Become more efficient and prepared without wasting precious appointment time. Follow these recommendations to help the flow of your interaction with your doctor:
1. Organize your questions/concerns and make a written list prior to your visit.
2. Keep your complaints short and to the point! If you ankle hurts, it may not be important to tell you doctor the entire story of your life, including every time you have twisted it since you started to walk.
3. Once stated, allow your doctor to gather what information is necessary. Talk when needed and listen when appropriate. We follow the mnemonic: OPQRST. O=onset. What were you doing when the problem started? Was is sudden, gradual or part of a ongoing condition? P=provocation or palliation. What makes it better or worse? Q=quality. What does it feel like... sharp, dull, etc. R=radiating or region. Where does the sensation radiate or is it in one place and where? S=severity. From 1-10, how severe is it? T=time. When did it start? How long does it last? Did it happen before? Consider jotting down the answers and bring them with you.
4. Keep small talk REALLY small! Would you rather use your valuable health care dollars for your doctor’s opinion on the local sports team performance, who the next president will be, or toward helping to improve your greatest asset- your health?
Your health depends on how well you relate to your doctor. If you are not happy with his or her performance or simply don’t find your relationship to be a love, or even a like, connection, remember the choice is yours to make! Perform your part, and if they don’t, let them know. Don’t be a Mrs. Lamb. If Dr. Badside doesn’t shape up - fire him! Your life may depend on it.