One of my favorite things about medicine is the fact that I am constantly learning about the art and science of medicine. I find opportunities to grow all around - my e-mail inbox has a daily stream of new medical articles, there are new journal articles to read, and physicians continually share information with one another. One important source of knowledge some physicians forget to acknowledge is our patients. As such, I encourage you to embrace the power you have as a patient to help your doctor treat you most effectively as well as help us better serve our community.
As a physician it is easy to prescribe medications and order tests, but it is an entirely different experience to actually take the medication, wait in line for a test, or be poked and prodded by medical staff. Books teach us an enormous amount of clinical facts, but they are no replacement for the real life experience of a patient. Feedback from patients can help doctors make better decisions and provide counseling insight that could be helpful to others in similar situations. You may ask “What are ways I can help?”, and below are 6 points that can make your experience at the doctor’s office better, more effective and help us improve as physicians.
1. How much does it really cost? – Patients can have different costs for the same test or prescription based depending on the insurance carrier. Talk with your doctor to help find the most cost-effective plan. Sometimes patients don’t take a medication or have a test because of cost. If your physician is not aware of these issues he or she cannot work to help you find an alternative solution. Your doctor’s office can sometimes help with medication samples and medication assistance programs. The cost of over-the-counter items can also vary greatly from one store to another. For example, a years worth of allergy medicine at a warehouse club may cost the same as a one month supply of the same medication at other stores.
2. Try to be open and honest with your doctor. – Those medical history forms you fill out the first time at the doctor’s office can seem long and cumbersome, but they can provide valuable information to your doctor about your risk factors for certain diseases. There may also be certain topics that you are nervous or embarrassed to talk with you doctor about, but HIPPA privacy regulations ensure your conversations and medical records are confidential. Additionally, we are here to help with all medical issues that may arise, and without open and complete communication we are not able to provide you with the most effective treatment plan.
3. What happened when you were referred to a specialist physician or to physical therapy? – Were the specialist physician and staff friendly and knowledgeable? Did you feel like they listened to your concerns? We want to refer our patients to the best specialists around. My interaction with a specialist physician can be very different than the direct specialist-patient experience, so your feedback is invaluable.
4. What happened when you started a new medication? – Did the medication help you feel better or did you have side effects? Sometimes a particular medication is the only option, but in many situations there are other choices. Even something as simple as a bad taste can affect whether a patient takes all of their medication. I gained appreciation for avoiding “yucky” medicines after chasing my own toddler around with a syringe of medication and trying to get him to actually swallow the entire dose.
5. Did you find a new device or home remedy that makes care better? - If you find a new solution to a problem ask us about it. As an example, the mainstay of treatment for congested infants for years has been nasal saline and bulb suction. Recently a new battery operated device and other home suction devices have come on the market. While the bulb suction is a great tool, some of the parents in my practice have reported that the new devices are easier to use and give better results. Thanks for the tip!
6. Is there a better way our office can serve you? - Can we explain a medical condition better? Did you have to wait on hold a long time just trying to get test results or schedule an appointment? We want to improve your healthcare experience, and your communication can make your doctor’s office aware of issues and allow us to make improvements.
Your physician should be able to teach you about your health and medical issues, but you can also educate your physician on a variety of issues that can improve the experience all around. Good communication is an important key to excellent health care for patients, and thank you in advance for helping us make your medical experience better!