Being a medical patient in this day and age takes trust, tact and tenacity. Quotas, shorter appointment times, and mass amounts of random health information at our fingertips create an atmosphere for poor communication and mistrust.
Many patients wait weeks to months for an appointment, only to feel their doctor never heard their actual problem. Many doctors are under pressure to see more and more patients, or lose their jobs.
Here are a few ways you can work with your doctor to come up with the best treatment for you.
Ways to help your doctor:
1. Be organized. This is not a storytelling session. Know your symptoms. The first day you noticed them and the timeline since. If it helps, feel free to write everything down and bring the note with you.
2. Be concise. When the doctor asks you a question attempt to answer it without getting sidetracked.
3. Remember your doctor is the expert. They have seen and diagnosed thousands upon thousands of people, and spent very long hours studying illnesses. They do know more about health than you.
4. Give your doctor a chance. Follow their instructions if at all possible. At least the first time.
Ways to help yourself:
1. Take responsibility for your own health. Although your doctor is an expert in pathogens, they are not an expert in you. Be proactive and educated about decisions in your treatment.
2. Ask friends and family for the names of doctors they’ve been happy with. Then make sure those doctors are covered by your insurance before booking the appointment.
3. Realistically research your symptoms. Search on more than one website. Look at multiple options. DO NOT open the doctor/patient conversation with “I googled my symptoms and I’m sure I have….” Explain you read x and y information and you were wondering if you have z.
4. You can always change doctors. If you don’t feel the doctor is listening to you, or looking at all the options, switch to another doctor. With that in mind, be aware that doctors in the same practice may or may not take on a patient from one of their co-workers. So have a back up practice to go to.
5. Be upfront about therapies you are not comfortable with. However, be aware that your insurance may not cover alternative therapies unless a traditional one has failed first. Even if your doctor recommends the alternative.
6. Communicate, and if need be argue, with your insurance company. Insurance companies have difficulty working “case by case.” They oftentimes require treatment for specific diagnosis be done in pre-designated steps. Call the insurance company with your diagnosis code (ask your doctor) and the specific treatment code (ask your doctor) you want. Ask what it will take for them to cover it. If they won’t cover it, work with your doctor to write a letter explaining why they should cover the treatment in your case.
7. Keep a copy of all your medical records. Request the records from your doctor’s practice at least once a year.