Based on the recommendations by Dr Simon J Ellis from The Neuropathy Trust, here are some tips for getting the best from your doctor:
- Have an idea of what you want out of the consultation.
- Write a list of things you want answered in order of priority.
- Take notes to help you remember the doctor’s answers to your questions.
- Bring another person along to the appointment for emotional support and also help with remembering what the doctor has said
“As a patient you are not there to make the doctor feel good but get the best care you can. The truth is, patients who push for their rights get better care than those who do not.”(Source: Dr Ellis)
- You have a right to an expert opinion.
- You have a right to seek a second opinion.
- Ask for an explanation, if you don’t know what the doctor means. “Doctors have their own language, which they often forget is not understood by the rest of humanity! … Some words have two meanings. For example, “chronic” is often taken to mean very severe or bad, but doctors usually use it to mean going on over a long period of time.” (Source: Dr Ellis)
- If you are prescribed medication make sure the risks and benefits of each drug are explained to you - “All drugs cause side effects and when you take medication you are balancing the possible risks against the benefits. This should be explained to you so you know what to expect and what to look out for.” (Source: Dr Ellis) - remember to take notes.
- Doctor’s have a limited amount of time so remember to ask how long you have got for the consultation. You can ask for a double appointment if you have a lot to discuss. Have an idea of what you want from your consultation.
“You are the expert on your own illness, no one else knows what it feels like. Secondly, often patients will have read about their condition and become experts in their field, so it’s not surprising that they know more than a generalist doctor. Some doctors find this a little disconcerting.” (Source: Dr Ellis) This is of course an understatement and Doctors need educating on this point also!
- If you are too unwell to get to the doctor, or have trouble choosing the right words, try writing a letter explaining the problem and saying what you want.
- If you only see your doctor when you are well enough to get to the appointment, remember to keep your doctor informed about what it is like at the bad times.
- It can be helpful to distinguish what you need and what you want from your doctor. You need appropriate medical treatment; you may want emotional support (which your doctor may not feel is his or her role). You may find it helpful to discuss your expectations with your doctor to see if they are realistic.
- Doctors like to make people feel better. Symptoms that do not point towards a definable cause and course of treatment are frustrating for them too. Doctors look for things they can treat, and this is why they may focus on any evidence of depression.
“There are still too many examples of arrogant and rude doctors about. Anyone can have a bad day, but in general the medical profession is trying to get better at communicating. This process is more advanced in some countries than others. The UK has lagged behind other countries, perhaps because of anachronisms like our class system.” (Source: Dr Ellis)
- Things go wrong from time to time in any relationship and patient-doctor relationships are no exception. Sharing ups and downs can make your relationship stronger and more productive. Don’t be afraid to let your doctor know if you’re unhappy - if you have a good doctor he should try to make things right.
- If trust is undermined in a patient-doctor relationship it is best to change doctors.
You are welcome to share your experiences in the comments section of what has or hasn't worked for you.