Many patients go to the doctor with complaints only to feel they have never been heard. You know when there is something wrong. You know all the struggles in your life. You are your best advocate, unless you are fortunate to have someone help you out. The question is what do you do “When your doctor won’t listen?” The main challenges in healthcare today include limited appointment time along with many patients who are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. Don’t let this be you. Always be proactive in your healthcare.
Know your doctor has a time limit. Plan for 10 minutes or less. Anything more is a bonus! Prepare questions ahead of time and stay with that topic. Ask only medical questions. Leave other questions for someone else to answer in the office. When you are not sure, ask a nurse what questions you should ask. That conserves the limited amount of time you have with your doctor. Ask the doctor what they mean when using medical terminology. Write down the terminology and take notes. Tape record your medical appointments. (Read: Being A Smart Patient by: Dr. Oz). If your doctor interrupts you, kindly ask your doctor to listen to your symptoms or to hear the entire question. Always ask your doctor “What to expect next?”. If they send you for tests ask your doctor “What do you expect the outcome to be? What information would the tests provide?”
You can do this by the following: First, when you visit your doctor take a list of the most important points you need to make. Think of all the questions you want to ask and write those questions out. Do your research before going to the doctor if you are well enough. Don’t wait till you are nearly dead before visiting the doctor…your doctor may not recognize how ill you really are. This is a huge problem…because most patients do not go until they are extremely ill, than they are not taken seriously! Sad fact, and no one will ever understand this because you have always been like that and you have likely been since a young child.
Let them know what you are thinking, but emphasize and stick with how you feel. Do not let anyone minimize how you are feeling, unless you truly feel you are simply anxious and need reassurance. If you are dealing with a sense of worry and nothing else medically, a little reassurance can be comforting.
Make sure if you get progressively worse go to the emergency room. If they don’t listen or take you seriously return to the emergency room until they get it right. If it’s an emergency … it needs to be handled as one. Usually the basic tests are done and you are sent on your way unless it’s the obvious trauma patients or heart attack. Even these problems can be subtle and missed on routine examinations.
If you feel your doctor is not listening to you make an appointment to interview the doctor. Find out what they are thinking and how they think you should be treated. If they don’t have time for you that is a red flag. Get a second-opinion or another doctor. Do not provide your next doctor with all the details the first, second, third, forth, fifth physicians have provided. You probably are not getting another opinion at all. You may simply be getting feedback and labeling that occurs repeatedly in the healthcare system. This is still happening with the HIPAA regulations. Don’t let HIPAA fool you. It’s not a fool-proof system. One doctor backs the next. If you are looking for another opinion, they need to come up with their own tests and start from scratch. You may need to have a new radiologist re-read your MRI, CAT scans, X-rays. Remember these tests are only as accurate as the person on that specific day. Errors are frequent.
Doctor-patient relationships do not always work out. If the chemistry is not there, you will never have a good relationship and what is more important than your life! Of course when things don’t work out “you” will be considered the problem. Few doctor’s will admit they are wrong. You will be at fault for not effectively communicating your needs. How do you do this? How do you ask the proper questions? Sometimes it is necessary to get outside advice. When is this?
You may have simply met an empass with this doctor and no longer have a working relationship. If you don’t agree “fire them!”. Your LIFE could be on the line.
Most patients don’t discuss what they suspect…because they don’t know what to suspect! I believe this is true with nearly every patient. I didn’t know, I wasn’t the doctor and I expected them to tell me what the symptoms meant. Many times symptoms are not as serious as some patients believe. More times than not, many patients will never see a doctor unless they have serious symptoms. These patients are overlooked because physicians routinely will not think outside the box.
The patient is not at fault, but most healthcare professionals will believe it is the patient’s mistake not to communicate effectively. This is not something that comes easy or naturally. How do you know what to say or how to say it? You need to be comfortable asking questions. When you do not agree or feel your doctor is not listening get another opinion or find a new doctor. You may not have a good working relationship. It’s time to move on.
Ask what the medical terms mean. Write down the medical terms. Take notes during your appointment, don’t wait till later…you won’t remember it!
Patient-physician relationships are not a personality contest. If you have that gut feeling that they are not listening and do not care, follow your intuition and move on to another doctor. If you have a good doctor they will listen to you and help you. The doctor has enough power to withhold treatment simply because their opinion is different than yours. You know yourself. Don’t try to prove anything. Proving you are right could be years to decades later, and that doctor will not even remember who you are or what they did wrong. That is if you live and they may be dead or simply not care. If they don’t care now, they won’t care years later. You are not on trial, but might feel like you are. You should never feel this way. If you do, move on to another doctor.
All we hear about are the malpractice insurance and the medical malpractice cases. Most lawyers will not even touch a medical malpractice unless it is so obvious and they are nearly guaranteed to win the case. If it takes much research, lawyers don’t want to touch it. The reality is few physicians are held accountable for their mistakes as compared to those who are permanently disabled or die as a result of mistakes.
Mistakes are not verbalized openly. Anyone who brings up the mistakes are subject to release from their positions in healthcare. Some institutions are finding that if they admit mistakes families do not pursue legal action. Ideally, all healthcare institutions should do that to avoid causing further damage to the individual and their families. They can all suffer for a lifetime trying to figure out why things are different and why their loved one suffers. Suffering should never be the answer.
Physicians have exceptional attorneys representing them and they will find whatever they can to blame the patient. The patient will be at fault because of: their age, pre-existing medical conditions, “never complained” even if the patient did, and a million different excuses. The physician’s story will always be credible over a patient.
If you have a good doctor they will not mind if you tape your visits. They will listen and help you. Many people have memory difficulties and almost all patients are so stressed they do not even remember what the doctor said during the visit. Taping your visit will help you understand exactly what had been said so you can take control of your health.
Make a list of most important symptoms and points
Make a list of most important symptoms and points
Write down all the questions you have
- Write down all the questions you have
- Have the office staff make a copy of your symptoms to be put into your chart
- Fax into the office your symptoms on paper. Leave a paper trail and keep everything in your own personal file at home.
- You need to be in control of your health and ultimately your life!
Good communication from your doctor includes the following:
- Speaks in understandable terms or explanations.
- Respects the patient.
- They know you are sick or injured and should never take advantage of these vulnerabilities.
- Does not stereotype patients.
- Does not interrupt patients.
- Effectively manage patients’ expectations by planning and helping the patient understand possible outcomes.
Here are two examples of expressing your concerns with your physician:
“Dr. Soanso, I have had these symptoms for the past 2 weeks and I’m getting worse. I am not coming here to waste your time or my time. I need your help now. I am not able to work with these problems. Please take these symptoms seriously and help get me back on the right track. A friend had suggested it might be celiac disease. I’d appreciate if you would explain why you do not think this is the problem? Why are you not doing any tests to find the problem? What do you think the problem is? Why do you think I am just stressed or anxious?”
“Dr. Soanso, I suffered a closed head injury one month ago. I still have symptoms. The CAT scan was normal according to the radiologist. I am vomiting constantly, with confusion and severe worsening headaches. Please have another look at the CAT scan. I heard many findings can be missed. I can’t live like this. What do you think about MRI of the brain? A friend suffered years of disability because a missed subarachnoid hemorrhage that could have been prevented. They missed a blood clot after a head injury. I do not want that to happen. I will not take medications for headaches until a blood clot has been totally ruled out. I have concerns, but I am not making up my symptoms. Help me get back on the right track.”
- 12 Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor (washingtonian.com)
- Can I switch to another doctor in the same clinic? (theglobeandmail.com)
- Empathy In Health (workinhealth.wordpress.com)
- The Proactive Patient Manifesto (thetickthatbitme.com)
- The Trouble With Patient 2.0 (thebiopsy.wordpress.com)
- Stop Lying to Your Doctor (thehealthcareblog.com)
- Patient Advocate (mscaregiverdonna.wordpress.com)
- Why Don’t Doctors Take a Lifestyle History? (lef.org)
- Improving modern medicine: Why social media is just what the doctor ordered (venturebeat.com)