If you have difficulty communicating with your primary care physician, you are not unusual. You speak the subjective language of the symptoms or problems you are experiencing while your doctor is concerned with the objective world of problem-solving. Doctors today are also feeling the pressure to see as many patients as possible in the shortest time possible. You, as a patient, can use these tips for communicating with your primary care physician:
1. Be prepared for your visit. Make a list of the problems or questions you want to discuss. Because doctors are, by nature, problems-solvers, this approach facilitates the coordination of healthcare. You won’t waste time trying to remember what you wanted to discuss. Keep in mind that it is most realistic to work on one or two problems at a time, therefore bring up the most important ones first. Be brief and concise but complete in explaining why you are there.
2. Respect the doctor’s time. Be on time and ready for the appointment. Don’t use office time to chat about social issues or the doctor’s private life. Avoid asking vague questions, such as “What do you think about the healthcare law?” Stick to why you are there.
3. If you don’t understand, ask for further explanation. Say, “Let me see if I’ve got this…” and then repeat what you think you heard the doctor say. If you misunderstood a single word, you might ask to have it repeated, or written, but if you missed the entire explanation, having the doctor repeat it will not necessarily make it clearer. By summarizing what you think the doctor said, he will have a clearer idea what you don’t understand. Ask for any printed material or reference sources that might help you understand your illness, diagnosis or prognosis.
4. Be honest and truthful with your physician. Without full information, the doctor can misdiagnose your condition. Withholding information can easily lead to medical errors if the doctor prescribes something that conflicts with what you haven’t told him you are taking. You can disagree without being disagreeable.
5. Maintain an attitude of being a partner in your healthcare. You and your doctor are both dedicated to curing illnesses and maintaining good health. If your doctor recommends a course of action, discuss what you don’t understand about it, ask questions as needed, but follow his advice. You are paying the doctor for his expertise, experience and education. If you don’t agree with the course of action, say so. The doctor may be able to suggest alternatives, or explain his recommendations more thoroughly.
Effective communications, trust and mutual respect are crucial to a therapeutic doctor-patient relationship. With these tips, you can communicate with your primary care physician.