Have a Doctor’s Appointment? Keep These 9 Things in Mind
Here’s how you can get the most out of your visit to the doctor.
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Many a times, you might have walked out of your doctor’s cabin feeling disappointed and worried, shaking your head at the commercialisation of medicine, and lamenting the days of the family physician.
Chances are you’ve never had a ‘family doctor’, but that doesn’t stop you from dissing your current one who spends all of five minutes with you and leaves you with more questions than answers.
You are probably right because doctors’ communication skills are a deficiency all teaching programs recognise, but have done little to address.
Also, with out-patient clinics overflowing, your doctor is pressed for time, and let’s face it, time is money. As a patient, here’s how you can actually help your case better:
1. Make a List of Your Concerns
Even if it’s just a mental checklist, make sure it’s comprehensive and you don’t miss any symptoms. The severity, duration, as well as aggravating and relieving factors are often critical to the diagnosis.
2. Carry Your Previous Medical Records
Carry your previous medical records, however irrelevant. Organise them chronologically, and if you have the organisational skills, have a little note listing the major illnesses that run in your family, and any allergies that you might have.
Make sure you tell your doctor about any medicines you are currently using, or have used in the past.
It’s best to put this information down on paper as it saves time, you don’t miss any drugs, and more importantly, if you stick a paper up your doctor’s nose, he/she will be less likely to miss it.
3. Mention All Major Lifestyle Changes
Do tell your doctor if you smoke or drink or exercise. It is always a good idea to mention any major lifestyle changes, including emotional stresses and changes in your immediate environment, because they can all contribute to your general well-being.
4. Ask For An Explanation
Doctors being doctors will talk in a language alien to everyone but their own fraternity. Ask for an explanation. It’s all right to ask for a repeat explanation about what is happening to your body, or about the medication you need to take.
Make sure you understand doses, duration, frequency and timing of your medication. Choose your questions well.
5. Check If Prescribed Tests Are Absolutely Necessary
Ask if the prescribed test is absolutely necessary, and if there are less invasive/ expensive alternatives available. Ask your doctor if you have been prescribed antibiotics or steroids, and if it’s all right to wait before aggressively treating your problem.
Most common illnesses are self-limiting, and doctors are often pressured into prescribing drugs because patients want instant results. Make sure you tell your doctor you’re in no hurry.
And if you actually are one for instant results, try and downscale your expectations: you will feel better almost immediately.
6. Keep Your Follow-Up Appointments
Make sure you keep your follow-up appointments with your doctor, ensuring that all the diagnostic tests are reviewed by them and explained to you.
In case your symptoms are not relieved within a ‘realistic’ frame of time, or if they actually worsen, contact your doctor immediately. In case you have been referred to a specialist, it’s always a good idea to let your doctor know how you are doing.
7. Don’t Self-Medicate
In case you have been prescribed antibiotics, take them for the duration prescribed, even if you are feeling better. In case you have been prescribed steroids, adhere to the prescribed regime. Avoid the tendency to self-medicate.
8. When In Doubt, Always Consult Your Doctor
If you have doubts about your consultation, contact your doctor’s office. Most doctors are usually too busy during working hours to take your call, but serious concerns are always passed on to them.
When in doubt, send them a text message. Most of my colleagues, who often ignore phone calls, always make it a point to respond to a text or email.
9. Redress Your Grievances
In case you are truly disappointed with your doctor, there is always a method of grievance redressal. Most hospitals take written complaints very seriously, as does the Consumer Protection Forum.
If you simply make a noise, most organisations will only offer a lollipop in the form of a second free consult. Avoid that. What you seek is a solution, and if I may suggest patient advocacy, you need to make sure no one else must suffer as you did.
So look at the bigger picture, and put it on a feedback form, and not just on Facebook.
As is true for any other relationship, communication and trust are key. And when you are feeling better, as you almost always will, a thank you is always appreciated.
(Dr Shibal Bhartiya is Senior Consultant, Ophthamology Services at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon.)
(Implants and medical devices can save lives and improve your quality of life. But have you had an experience that left you worse off than before? Share your story. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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