Talk to your doc
Posted On Times Wellness, Sunday, September 14, 2008
Ever find your doctor not listening to you? It might pertain to your manner of questioning him about your illness. Find out how bridge the doctor-patient communication gap
Dr Aniruddha Malpani
It’s all very well to advise patients to become empowered and to take an active interest in their treatment. However many patients complain that if they ask their doctor questions, the doctor gets irritated and often puts them in their place by asking them – “Are you the doctor?” or – “Just leave everything up to me - I am the expert.”
So what is the poor patient supposed to do?
Firstly, try to be empathetic and look at things from your doctor’s point of view. He has lots of patients to see; a limited amount of time; and will do his best to maximize his efficiency and his income by trying to see as many patients as possible.
The trick is not to get scared and stop asking questions, but to learn how to ask questions and which questions to ask. Don’t worry that your doctor will think your questions are stupid – after all, the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask! How will you ever learn without asking questions?
Here are some suggestions you might find helpful
Do your homework. Be prepared.
Try to find answers for your questions yourself by doing a google search
Ask focused questions, which relate to your specific problem
Remember that both you and your doctor have the same interests at heart – both of you want you to get better. Work as partners - you are both on the same side!
It’s a good idea to write your questions down. If you can show him that you have tried to answer them for yourself, he will be much happier to answer the ones that have stumped you!
It’s important to not waste your doctor’s time by asking irrelevant questions. These will often end up irritating your doctor, and you will lose his good will. Do understand that sometimes doctors don’t have answers to all the questions. Medicine is an inexact science, and there are still major areas of ignorance. A good doctor will share these with you! ‘I don’t know’ can be a very good answer sometimes!
Remember that the quality of the answer depends upon the quality of the question. Take time and effort to frame your questions well.
Try to be assertive – but not aggressive. It’s not hard to do this, if you are respectful and ask your doctor for permission to ask questions! In case you have lots of questions, request him to suggest a book or website where you can get enough background information about your problem.
Ask if you can email your questions. This way, your doctor can answer your questions at his leisure and you can utilize your personal interaction time more constructively.
It is also important to learn not to ask poor quality questions. Thus, if there are queries about clinic timings, it is best to ask the clinic staff, rather than the doctor. Also, please don’t ask questions on behalf of your aunt or friend – focus on your problems, so your doctor can help you solve them!
If, inspite of your best efforts, your doctor is still upset when you ask questions, then this just means that he is not the right doctor for you – or that you are not the right patient for him. Find another doctor!