Are you doing everything before, during and after your medical appointments to help yourself get the best health care and outcome? Probably not! Fortunately, doctors have suggestions for ways patients can better manage their care and get the most of out of medical appointments. Read on to learn what doctors want patients to know, so you can increase your chances of the best care and outcome possible.
What doctors want patients to know.
In 2010, Consumer Reports surveyed 660 primary care doctors to learn their opinions regarding their relationships with patients as well as steps patients can take to give themselves the best opportunity for a good outcome. Although this survey took place ten years ago, the results seem quite pertinent today. Read below for 6 key findings and my associated tips – they can help you get the best care and outcome possible. (Note – the information in the 6 categories below are from the Consumer Reports survey unless otherwise noted.)
1. Doctors want strong relationships
Doctors want long-term relationships with their patients – which is better for patients and doctors. In the 2018 Physicians Foundation Survey, doctors reported that their relationships with their patients are their greatest source of professional satisfaction. And, a strong relationship with your doctor is key to getting the best care possible.
What can you do to have a better relationship with your doctor?
I suggest you:
- Try not to switch doctors frequently.
- Consider the interpersonal aspect of your relationship with your doctor as important as the medical aspect.
- If you cannot “get along” with a doctor, consider finding a replacement.
For more tips, read When Is It Time To Change Doctors?
2. Doctors want patients to treat them well.
Doctors stated that being courteous and respectful can help patients get better care. Although this sounds so simple, most doctors report they’ve been treated rudely by patients.
How can you treat your doctor with respect?
I suggest the following:
- Remain calm and pleasant throughout your appointment.
- Do not be afraid to be assertive, but always be polite.
- Engage the doctor in a conversation – don’t argue.
For more information on this topic, read my blog posts:
3. Doctors want compliant patients.
Doctors’ top complaint was about patients who don’t follow advice or aren’t compliant with recommendations and/or treatments. In fact, in the 2018 Physicians Foundation Survey, doctors reported that about 31% of their patients do not consistently adhere to their treatment plans.
How can you be more compliant?
I suggest you:
- Make sure you understand all instructions before leaving the doctor’s office.
- Don’t lie to your doctor about your medical history or your personal habits (e.g. drug or alcohol use, diet, exercise, and/or tobacco use).
- If something recommended seems impossible for you, or you feel you are unlikely to follow the advice, raise your concerns with your doctor before you leave.
- Set up systems for reminding yourself to take medications, follow other self-care tasks, etc. (it can be helpful to use charts and set cell phone alarms).
- If you find you are not following the advice of the doctor, let your doctor know as soon as possible – your health could depend on it. For example, don’t stop medications or other treatments without discussing it with your doctor first.
For more information, read:
- How Can You Get the Best Healthcare? Actively Participate!
- It’s Important to Be Honest with Your Doctors.
4. Doctors want patients to keep better track of health items.
Doctors want patients to keep notes from appointments, treatments, medications, changes in condition, tests, and procedures. It’s hard, if not impossible, for doctors to accurately diagnose and treat patients without access to a complete medical history.
What can you do to stay more organized?
I suggest the following:
- Purchase a ZaggoCare System to make it easy to take notes and keep all your records organized and at your fingertips.
- Bring a notebook or recording device to all appointments so you can take notes and/or record conversations (ask the doctor before recording).
- You can use your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to take notes, but be sure you can type quickly and accurately enough to record all important details. Read these notes as soon as possible after each appointment to fix any typos or other errors.
- Keep a detailed record of all tests and the associated results – be sure you receive test results from all tests – do not assume “no news is good news”.
- Carefully document any relevant information at home (e.g. fevers, change in condition, stomach upset, etc).
- Carry a complete list of all medications taken, including over-the-counter drugs. Make note of when you started each medication, any side effects, and if/when you stopped.
For more information and tips on staying organized, read my posts:
- Keeping Your Medical Information Organized Is Easier Than You Think.
- Why Take Detailed Notes at Doctor Appointments?
- Should You Record Medical Appointments?
5. Many doctors don’t want to hear about online research results.
Doctors are not convinced that patients should be researching conditions and treatments online. In fact, in the 2010 Consumer Reports survey, only 8% of the respondents thought it was “very helpful”. More recently, in 2018, Merck Manuals surveyed 240 family doctors at an industry conference. 97% of respondents reported they’ve had patients come to appointments with misinformation based on online research. When patients find information online that is either incorrect, misleading or doesn’t apply to them, it can lead patients towards the scariest diagnosis and make them distrust their own doctors’ opinions.
However, it’s also possible that patients can find information online that is helpful to their doctor. Doctors, particularly primary care doctors, must have knowledge regarding a vast number of medical conditions, tests, medications and treatments. For instance, there are more than 6,800 rare diseases (each affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US at any given time) and more than 20,000 prescription medications approved by the FDA. Given the tight work schedules of doctors, combined with an impossible amount of medical information for doctors to learn and keep track of, it’s certainly possible that patients may find valuable information online that their doctors consider important.
What can you do if you like to research?
- When you research online realize that not everything you read online is helpful or reliable – stick with reputable sites (see the ZaggoCare website’s Resource Center for links).
- Only bring in the portions of articles that are relevant – highlight your areas of interest/concern.
- Don’t insist on tests or treatments. If you don’t agree with your doctor, get a second opinion (always a good idea).
- If you are feel you and your doctor cannot agree on your desire to research health topics online, it may be time to find a doctor who is more compatible, but be aware that many doctors do not find internet research very useful.
For more tips, read these posts:
- Are Patients Biased Against Doctors with Particular Characteristics?
- Can You Trust Advice from Other Patients?
- Can you Trust Medical Information Online?
- Help for Hard to Diagnose Health Issues.
- Should You Trust Your Doctor’s Recommendations?
- Why are Second Opinions Important?
6. Doctors want patients to realize their time is tight!
There is no doubt about it, doctors are pressed for time as they see patients in time-limited appointments. Doctors want patients to prepare for appointments and use their time wisely.
How can you get the most out of a time-limited appointment?
I suggest you:
- Plan ahead – write down any questions or concerns you would like to discuss. And, write down your “story” with details of how and when you started feeling any symptoms.
- Do not save very important topics for the last minutes of your appointment – prioritize your questions/concerns.
- Do not waste the doctor’s time, but do not leave before you understand everything that was discussed, and all of your important issues were addressed.
- Discuss your most important concerns at the beginning of an appointment.
- Ask your doctor if you can communicate via email for the items that were not covered or for any issues that arise between appointments.
For more information, read these posts: