Have you ever gone to the doctor and felt like he/she wasn’t listening to you?
Have you tried to tell your story, only to have him/her interrupt with a checklist of questions: do you have chest pain, shortness of breath, fevers, cough, and so forth?
Have you ever felt ignored, and left thinking that your doctor never understood why you came to him in the first place?
Everyone talks about “patient empowerment”—and that’s very important, but most patients don’t have the tools to empower themselves to get the care that they need.
As I discovered throughout the years, one of the most important things in a doctor’s medical bag is the ability and willingness to listen, take a good history and think beyond what some call ‘cookbook’ medicine.
We’ve seen the consequences: studies show that 80% of diagnosis can be made from taking a good history, and that not listening can lead to misdiagnosis and fatal consequences.
Try these tips on your next doctor’s visit and empower yourself to get the healthcare that you deserve.
Answer the doctor’s pressing questions first. Help them out and answer their questions. If the doctor wants you to describe the location of your chest pain, describe it (“it’s in the middle of my chest, right here”). If she want to know what you took to make it better, tell them (“I took an aspirin. It didn’t help”). Avoid giving your own diagnosis.
Focus on your concerns. If you get the sense that your concerns are being brushed over, interject, “Excuse me, doctor, I have tried to answer all your questions, but I am still not certain my concerns have been addressed. Can you please help me understand why it is that I have been feeling fatigued and short of breath for the last two weeks?” and so on.
It’s your body and your duty to advocate for yourself if you don’t feel like your story has been understood and your concerns have been addressed.
Your doctor is a professional, and is probably trying her/his best to help you. Your story has to be heard and your concerns addressed, but make sure you present your points in a respectful manner.