- Do you feel heard?
- Makes eye contact, not multitasking.
- Not a lecture but a conversation.
- You are included in decision-making.
- Board Certified Physician
Examining our relationships has rightfully earned its place as one of the pillars of health and wellness. Many pundits have written about and examined our relationship with our spouses, children, extended family, and co-workers. One of the less discussed but equally essential relationships is our relationship with our doctors. Studies have shown that patients with positive patient-doctor relationships experience better health outcomes than those with troubled relationships.
Bias in the HealthCare System
One of the biggest challenges we currently face in the healthcare system is the discrepancy in patient outcomes based on bias. A doctor or provider may make assumptions about you based on race, orientation, gender, or socioeconomic background. These assumptions can be deadly as they blind the clinician to facts specific to you and your health. This is a setup for improper diagnosis and delayed treatment, which adds up to a greater risk to your health. A mild problem becomes a major one. Leading to more involved treatment and a higher risk of treatment side effects, all of which add to the cost of your care.
Biases make the person believe they know you before getting to know you.
Impact of Patient-Physician Relationship
Having a proper relationship with your doctor can improve your health. When you have a doctor you like and trust; you are more likely to take steps that will positively impact your health. Because the interaction with your doctor is pleasant, you are more likely to make follow-up appointments. Trusting your doctor means you are more willing to follow their advice. This culminates in more visits, better communication, and improved health.
Having a positive patient-doctor relationship can improve your health.
Five Tips to Consider When Examining Your Relationship with Your Doctor
1. Do you feel heard?
When you leave your doctor’s office, do you feel your provider heard your concerns? A lot of sacrifice goes into visiting our doctors. There is a sacrifice of time and finance. This sacrifice is well worth it because we know our health deserves to be prioritized. And neglecting our health can lead to dire consequences. However, unless your doctor hears your concerns, that effort is futile.
Listening is one of the most essential skills of a physician. When the effort is made to listen, the benefit of that doctor’s visit is strengthened. One of the most significant barriers to being a good listener is biases. Biases make the person believe they know you before getting to know you. Implicit biases, which are biases the individual is unaware they possess, can have the same impact as explicit biases. Having a doctor that listens is a key indicator that they see you as an individual and that they care.
Listening is one of the most essential skills of a physician. When the effort is made to listen, the benefit of that doctor’s visit is strengthened.
2. Makes eye contact, not multitasking.
It is natural and expected that your physician will take notes during your visit. This is normal and is a part of them providing good quality care. Note-taking allows your doctor to recall important discussion details, which is essential to providing quality care. However, if your doctor’s eyes are glued to their computer the entire visit, that is a problem. Pausing to make eye contact acknowledges that they are hearing you and encourages you to continue speaking. Failing to make eye contact or constantly attending to other tasks while speaking will miss communication through your body language or demeanor. All of which are part of your communication tool.
3. Not a lecture but a conversation.
Information should flow in both directions when discussing your health with your doctor. This interaction should be a discussion and not a lecture. You are expected to ask questions and request clarifications. If you have been given a lot of information, you may need time to digest this before gathering your thoughts for further discussion. You may be allowed to stay in the exam room while your doctor sees another patient before circling back to you. Alternatively, your doc may offer a follow-up appointment in a short interval.
4. You are included in decision-making.
Your opinion matters when discussing the best ways to tackle your health challenges. Each person approaches their health differently. One individual may be super-aggressive with treatment, desiring the most effective or fastest treatment options. While someone else may feel more comfortable taking a measured or step-wise approach. It is your body, your health, and your opinion matters. Your doctor should allow you to share your opinion on the next best step for you.
Your opinion matters. Be a part of the decision-making process regarding your care.
5. Board Certified Physician
While we all want a physician with excellent bedside manners, compassion, and great listeners, a fundamental requirement we should have for all our physicians is that they prove they have the knowledge and the skill needed to care for our condition. As a physician, I always check my family’s doctors through their respective state medical boards to be sure they are licensed and board certified. Most states have an online process available to the public that allows you to inquire about each physician. What does it mean to be board-certified? It means your doctor has passed all their tests. Most US states do not require a doctor to be board certified to practice medicine. So, having a state license does not ensure your doctor is indeed board-certified. However, each state will list the physician’s certification status.
What to do if Your Patient-Doctor Relationship Needs Improvement?
Discuss your concerns with your doctor. Just like anyone else, your doctor may have had an off day. It may be of value to not only you but the next patient to provide feedback to your doctor on your experience. If your experience is consistent despite raising your concerns, consider putting effort into finding a new physician.
Taking the time to examine your doctor’s relationship is a part of the process of self-advocacy for your health. And when you do have a doctor that is fulfilling and rewarding to you, be sure to let them know.
Written by: Dayna Smith, MD | May 17, 2023 | Copyright myObMD. Media, LLC, 2023
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