Patients, Physicians Work in Partnership
Posted with permission. Originally published in the Douglas County News-Press
As we settle into the new year, one of the best resolutions we can choose for our health is making the commitment to engage in an active partnership with our physician. Whether we’re just getting to know a new physician or want to further build our relationship with our current one, there are three areas we can focus on to strengthen our partnership. They include preparing for our appointment, prioritizing concerns during our appointment and an area perhaps overlooked, understanding our physician’s perspective while making our perspective understood, as well.
Many of us may have experienced our blood pressure being much higher than usual when it’s taken at the doctor’s office. This phenomenon, also known as “white coat syndrome” is quite common. Although we may not be able to eliminate it completely, the way we prepare for our appointment can help to minimize it. For instance, if we’re not a morning person and our busiest day of the week is Monday, making an early morning appointment on a Monday is probably not wise. Unless we have an urgent issue that needs to be addressed immediately, we need to plan ahead and schedule an appointment during our best time of day on our least busy day of the week. Making the time of our appointment work best for us can reduce anxiety and help us feel more relaxed during our visit.
Another extremely important area of preparation is having a current list of our medications with us that include the name of the drug, the dose and the frequency. With the Food and Drug Administration reporting over 7,000 deaths in the United States annually due to medication errors, this absolutely must be a top priority for all of us. We cannot assume that the list of medications our doctor has on file for us is current. Perhaps our primary care physician referred us to a specialist and that doctor added a medication or changed the dose of another medication. In a perfect world this information would be communicated to our primary care physician. However, this doesn’t always happen, so it’s our responsibility to make sure every doctor involved in our care is on the same page when it comes to our medications.
Current data indicates that in an average visit, the actual time a physician spends face to face with a patient is less than 20 minutes. With this limited amount of time, we must prioritize our concerns as clearly and concisely as possible. We can’t present a laundry list of ailments and expect them all to be addressed during the same visit. Instead, we need to focus on one or two issues that are impacting our health and our quality of life the most. Having a family member or a trusted friend with us as an advocate to express these concerns and keep us on track can also be helpful.
Perspective may potentially have the most impact on our ability to build and maintain our relationship with our physician.
Being honest about how we view our health and the way we want our concerns managed should align with our physician’s point of view. If we prefer a more holistic approach to our medical care, working with a doctor who practices a blend of Eastern and Western medicine may be a better match for us than a doctor who only practices traditional medicine. When patients and physicians have rapport it strengthens the patient physician partnership and creates a mutually beneficial relationship. Now that’s good medicine!