Communication with your Doctor – It’s a two way street
Jeff was frustrated every time he went to see his doctor at Kaiser. If Jeff didn’t want to take a prescription, his doctor would warn him that his life would be endangered if he didn’t take it. The five minute office visits left Jeff angry. He rarely felt that his needs had been addressed.
In today’s medical world, doctors and patients have difficulty communicating. Our system has gotten more and more complex. Healing as a concept is really not part of the equation of our medical system. It’s all about management of diseases.
Your doctor’s job is to make sure you don’t have a serious problem she can do something about. Most information is gleaned by studying labs and X-Rays. For almost every diagnosable condition, there is a suggested algorithm to treat it. In some medical situations such as the emergency room, protocols are a good thing. They prevent us from missing important conditions. At other times our medical system tries to take the guesswork out of treatment by making everyone the same. There is no individualization.
In a private medical office, the doctor is busy seeing fifty or more patients a day. She may not have the time to think about what is best for an individual sitting in front of her. If the labs don’t show a problem the patient doesn’t have a problem.
When you go to see a doctor you are in a vulnerable position. You may not feel like you know enough about your body to ask questions or get information on your own behalf. Often you are frightened that you will have a terrible diagnosis, or overwhelmed by the situation.
We no longer live in small communities as we used to. People used to know their doctor. They would see him walking down the street or having coffee. Sometimes he would even stop by their house on his way home from work. That isn’t the case anymore.
Communicating effectively is a two way street. You as the patient can go into the doctor’s office with your information already lined up. You can use the internet, look up alternative literature, or see several physicians for different opinions. If you learn more about your condition, you won’t feel so helpless. On the physician’s side, we could spend more time listening. Perhaps the same treatment isn’t good for every patient just because an algorithm or protocol dictate it. Not everyone will respond well to the same medications.
One of the reasons our medical system is in so much trouble is the imbalance of power between physician and patient. As patients we need to stand for our own health. As physicians, we need to help our patients be able to make informed choices in their care.