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How to Get and Keep Your Doctors Attention



              Does this sound familiar?

Doctor:     I want to get to the bottom of your complaint, identify it, understand it and
treat it.
Patient:    I don’t want to be seen as hysterical or “stressed out”.

Doctor:     I want patients to present themselves clearly and Confidently.
Patient:     I am afraid of sounding aggressive, or asking stupid questions.

Doctor:    I want patients who understand that I have a hectic schedule and come
Patient:    I want a doctor who isn’t distracted and takes time to listen

Doctor:    I want a patient who does not have unrealistic expectations.
Patient:    I want a doctor who is not afraid to admit that they don’t know, and
welcomes the idea of second opinions.

Doctor:    I want a patient to understand and ask questions
Patient:   I want a doctor who does not talk in medical jargon…and gives an
explanation, not just an answer.

Doctor:    I want a patient who follows medical advice
Patient:    I want a doctor who has enough faith in me to let me decide the path that we
will take together.

If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone!  Patients historically view their doctors from one of two angles, and it should be noted that neither of these angles ends with a satisfying relationship. One patient may view the doctor with the awe of a father or mother figure, while another patient will view the doctor with distrust, and feel that she/he will be judge and jury and leave them in a place that is no better than before the appointment.  One expects too much and the other expects too little.  Never settle for a doctor that you are not comfortable with, one that you are unable to talk to, or one who does not listen. Not all doctors fit all patients, I prefer a warm fuzzy doctor, but my husband prefers one who is all business.

What makes a good doctor patient relationship


The most important thing to remember is that a good doctor patient relationship is a two way street. Here are some tips to help you establish that relationship:

  • Communication is one of the main keys to establishing a good relationship. As a patient you may feel scared, you may not understand what is being told to you, it feels like alien territory. On the other side, your doctor may be having trouble understanding your explanation of symptoms etc.
  • Type up all of your questions, leaving space between them to make notes. Prioritize your list with the most important questions at the top. (You might consider faxing the list to the doctors office in advance of your appointment). Print two copies — one for yourself, one for the doctor. Don’t be ashamed or shy about asking these questions. Remember, there is no such thing as a “dumb” question. Giving the doctor a copy of the list will prevent him/her from mistakenly thinking you’re finished if there’s a pause in the conversation.
  • If you haven’t already, explain to your doctor that you want to be well educated about your health and work with him or her as a treatment partner. As patients, many of us do want to be consulted about our condition, our treatment and how things will progress. On the other hand if you are disturbed by too many details, don’t be afraid to tell your doctor how much or how little information you want.
  • Ask for clarification on anything you don’t understand, and ask your doctor if he/she has any questions for you. If your doctor speaks medicalese, let him/her know that you don’t understand.
  • Don’t hold back information, something you think is serious may be easily taken care of, conversely something that you think is minor could affect your treatment.
  • If you have a problem remembering or understanding what is being said, take notes or ask if you can tape the conversation. You may also want to bring someone with you who can help you remember what the doctor said, or remind you of questions to ask.
  • Keep your health records in a file and bring them with you to each appointment. Include any tests, treatments, surgeries, medications etc. It is also helpful to keep a pain diary. The diary should list flare ups, medication taken, triggers, duration and any other pertinent information.
  • If you question the strength of your relationship with your doctor, it may help to bring along a friend or family member who hasn’t been at every appointment. That person can be a sort of gauge for you. They can debrief with you after the visit, and they can either reinforce or provide a contrasting view of your impression of the relationship.
  • If you are unsatisfied with your relationship and decide to find another doctor, it’s best to find the next doctor before you cut off your relationship with the old one. It can be difficult to change doctors because these are intense, important relationships. Put your personal energy into creating the new relationship. And, at a later time, when you have more space and energy, you can let the old doctor know why you chose to move on, if that’s important to you.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Does my doctor show respect to me as well as to my family members?
  • Is my doctor scientifically up to date?
  • Does my doctor have a problem with getting a second opinion?
  • Does my doctor return calls in a timely fashion?
  • Does my doctor make me feel stupid for asking questions?
  • Are waiting times too long for appointments?
  • Is the staff courteous?
  • Does my doctor listen and respond to questions?
  • Am I treated as a partner in my own health care?
  • Is my time respected?
  • Does the doctor have good eye contact?
  • What is the plan for emergencies?
  • Does the doctor accept your health insurance?
  • Are you more comfortable with a male or a female?
  • Do you want to access your doctor online?

An ideal patient is one who knows that getting well is a journey the doctor and patient take together, and trusts the doctor to do his or her best at all times.

An ideal doctor is someone who validates your pain, listens to your problems, treats you with professional courtesy and goes that extra mile.

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