A quick explanation: I have suffered from quite severe health problems most of my life.
From being in hospital in early childhood I was struck by how difficult things can be from the patient side.
It was one of the reasons I wanted to become a doctor in the first place and I believe this has made me a better physician.
Anyway there are certain things you can do that will help you to get the most out of your clinical interactions.
Being ill is bad enough as it is. Why make it worse than it has to be?
Good communication saves time, money and means you don’t have to undergo unnecessary investigations and procedures.
–Yes they should have been sent a list of your medications but it doesn’t always happen on time and things aren’t always at hand.
I personally keep a list of my medication in a Word document so I can just print it out and take it with me to give to the doctor.
A photocopy of your prescription/taking your medications with you can also be helpful, –but be careful not to leave anything out.
A preprinted list is best because you can leave it with your doctor in case they want to attach a copy to your notes.
Also if it needs to be entered into a computer you won’t have to wait around while someone does it.
– For this reason I take a small notepad with me every time.
Before I go I write down the specific questions I want answered so I don’t forget them. I also write down any relevant information during the appointment.
If it is anything particularly complex e.g. a drug or procedure I am not familiar with I ask them to write it down.
– As long as you as the patient agree to another party (e.g. a friend or relative) being present your doctor should be fine with it.
A loved one can bring up any important points that you have missed and they can also be another source of valuable information which you may forget or not be aware of.
For example in some cases I have discovered very important signs/symptoms that had not been noticed by the patient themselves but had been spotted by the wife or husband.
There is no shame in saying you don’t understand something.
– It is not your failure, rather the doctor should have explained things better.
Doctors are human beings and fallible so by letting them know this you are actually helping them out and making them better at doing their job.
They may not realise they are using too much jargon or speaking too fast.
Pointing this out may not just help you but could help every other patient that they see (and make their job easier).
Sometimes you will find that your appointment time is running out and you can’t cover everything that you need to.
Ask for another appointment so you can discuss things further. A good doctor will happily do this for you.
Obviously how soon the appointment will be depends on a number of factors but for serious matters it should be fast — if not tell them/bring it to their attention.
Often I have had patients who are having terrible side effects with a medication and stop taking it, but are too scared to say so because they think it will cause offence.
It won’t — I have stopped medications before for similar reasons.
If there is a problem or you are not happy tell them they are not psychic so will appreciate it!
Even if they don’t specifically ask check to see if the option is available.
–This may be more common practice in countries with primarily private healthcare (e.g. US) but I think it is equally important and useful in places like the UK.
The letter gives you an extra summary of what the doctor thought of your case. There may also be extra information such as test results which were not available at the time.
In some cases you may also find the situation easier to understand when you aren’t under the pressure of being at an appointment.
–Sometimes acute anxiety can make it difficult to understand things during the appointment itself. A copy of the letter can give you another chance to “digest” the relevant points in a neutral situation.
–No, really I’m serious. If they don’t listen they are of no use to you.
True clinical medicine is like a Sherlock Holmes mystery which needs to be solved using the information and evidence at hand.
Contrary to the impression that the mass media may give you the biggest source of evidence is not modern technology.
– It is the words that come out of your mouth and the physical impression that the doctor makes of you that is most important.
If you have any tips of your own or anything you would like to add let me know in the comments. Please also share this information with others who you think may benefit.
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Originally published at medium.com