Forging the Doctor-Patient Relationship
Forging the Doctor-Patient Relationship
A basic plan can help you communicate better with your doctor whether you are continuing with the doctor you`ve been visiting, or starting with a new doctor. The following tips can help you build a good partnership.
- Be prepared. Take a list of questions with you. This will help you be sure to remember what you wanted to ask between visits, without wasting the doctor’s time and yours while you try to remember all of your concerns. Doctor`s appreciate when you do come in with questions written down, it not only helps them treat you, but it shows them that you want to take an active roll in your treatment.
- Consider bringing a family member or friend with you to help be your advocate. This is especially helpful if you are nervous around doctors, in too much pain to articulate your concerns, or if you have memory or cognitive problems.
- Keep a diary of symptoms, problems, side effects and more, that you can show your doctor at each visit. Visits with a Rheumatologist who is treating you for lupus are usually at least one month apart and a lot can happen to you in one month; making it difficult for you to remember them all once you are at your visit. Writing it down helps your doctor know what may or may not be working, and if and what new tests may be needed.
- Be honest when your doctor asks questions. Remember nothing you tell your doctor is insignificant when it comes to a disease like lupus, even if you think it probably isn’t important, or necessary to tell the doctor, tell them anyway and let them decide.
- Be sure to stick to the facts. What symptoms you had, when you had them, were they right after taking medications, were they after strenuous activity etc. These details can help a doctor decide if it is something they need to look into and how.
- Don`t ever be embarrassed or uncomfortable about discussing sensitive subjects such as memory problems, interpersonal relationships, sexual function etc.
- Ask questions about everything, from what a medical term means to the cost of treatment etc. An informed patient is an empowered patient.
- Don`t be shy about giving your own opinion on treatments etc. If you have looked something up online for example about a medication you are taking and it concerns you, be sure to bring it up to your doctor.
- Take notes at your visits so you don`t forget instructions, or possible side effects to look out for etc.
- Be sure to ask for instructions on medication in writing.
- Make sure your doctor knows of any over the counter medications you use, especially if you already are or if you are considering taking herbal supplements.
An important part of good health care is a good working relationship between you and your doctor. You must be able to communicate well with each other so your needs are met.
Treatment for lupus and other autoimmune diseases often mean that you will have more than one doctor. Sometimes other health specialists, such as Nephrologists for kidney issues, Neurologists for memory and cognitive issues, Cardiologists for heart issues, and more are involved, too. You may get facts from many sources. However, it's a good idea to choose one doctor to be your main source of information. You can turn to this doctor with your concerns. This doctor may or may not be the one you see most often. Only you can make that choice, and this information can help.
You should feel at ease with your doctor. A good relationship with your doctor is worth the effort needed to create it. If you and your doctor have similar viewpoints about sharing facts, and making choices, you are likely to have a good relationship. When you are diagnosed with a disease like lupus, there is nothing wrong with “doctor shopping” until you find a good fit. Treatment for lupus is on-going and frequent and you need to feel comfortable and safe with the doctor treating you.
We each have our own ways to communicate. That's why the perfect doctor for one person may not be a good match for another. You may want your doctor to be business-like. Some people prefer doctors who are direct and to the point. They don't need a warm relationship - just a sharing of needed facts and details.
Or you might prefer a doctor with a more friendly style. This is often the case when your illness requires long-term treatment, like lupus. After you know what you want as a patient, the next step is looking at how you talk with your doctor.
Understanding Your Doctor
Remember, it's hard to listen well and understand when you are anxious or afraid. Even if the doctor is very thorough, you may not hear or remember everything that is being said. Take notes to help recall what your doctor says. Or ask if you can tape record your talk. You may also want to have a family member or friend there with you. They can remind you of questions you want to ask and help you remember what the doctor said. Having someone there also helps your family know what is happening. You may want their help in making decisions.
Here are some questions your doctor can usually answer for you:
- What's wrong with me?
- What treatment do you recommend?
- Are there other treatments?
- What are the benefits of these treatments?
- What are the risks?
- What medicines are you giving me? What are they for?
- How should I expect to feel during treatment?
- What side effects, if any, can I expect to have?
When you get instructions from your doctor, write them down. Make sure you understand them before you leave the office. Then follow them exactly. Keep written notes and bring them with you, if needed.
Here are some more questions you may want to discuss with your doctor:
- Who else gets information about me? Should anyone else - a spouse, a friend, or another doctor, also get information? Think about the choices and tell your doctor what you want.
- What issues are important to me? For example, will the disease or the treatment keep me from working or caring for my family? Will I have any physical limitations? Ask if there is written information you can take with you. Be sure to ask your doctor about local foundations and organizations that can help you like the Lupus Alliance, most physicians will have a list of these organizations that they either work with or know about, in order to help you find help and information about your disease from other sources besides themselves.
- What is the best time to call you if I have a question? Some doctors have a special time for call backs. Expect your doctor to return your calls, but remember that a quick response may not be possible if another patient is having a crisis.
Above all, your doctor should take your questions seriously. He or she should be interested in your concerns and not make you feel rushed. If your doctor does not respond this way, bring it up at your next visit. If after a few more visits, you still feel you arent being heard or taken seriously, it may be time to find another doctor. Never feel as if you have to stay with a doctor once you started with them. Your relationship with him or her is not written in stone, if you don`t feel comfortable or like their bedside manner, it is your right to find a doctor you can be comfortable with.
Here's how to maintain a good doctor-patient relationship:
- Try to state as clearly as you can any changes in body functions, from sleep and bowel habits to other changes such as headaches. Make notes so you can report these to your doctor.
- Talk over your concerns with your doctor. Mention lifestyle habits, even if it's something you're not proud of, such as smoking. Never keep back information. Something you think is minor could affect your treatment.
- Make a list of all your questions. Take it with you to your doctor visits. Don't be ashamed or shy about asking these questions. There is no such thing as a "dumb" question. Refer to the list of questions above for some ideas, and then add your own.
People who have lupus are likely to want to build a good relationship with their doctors. Over the long term, it is helpful to identify one doctor to be your main source of information. Ask the person if that will be OK. Building this relationship doesn't just happen. It takes care and effort on both sides. Chances are, you'll both benefit.