Have you ever left a doctor’s office thinking: “I should’ve asked them __”, or “I really wish I would’ve mentioned __”. It’s difficult to remember every symptom and ask all the right questions when seeing doctor. It can be easy for patients to place blame on healthcare professionals, and make statements such as “They should’ve asked me __”, or “I can’t believe they didn’t diagnose me with __ sooner”.
The truth is, doctors are human, too. Even when a doctor has their patients’ best interest at heart, healthcare professionals are not mind readers. It’s important for patients to prepare for visits and take a proactive approach to their health. Take time to prepare for doctor visits, track your symptoms, educate yourself on your health condition, and follow through with all treatment plans. Being your own advocate will not only make diagnosing and treating health issues more effective, but will also help get the attention and care you deserve and need.
How to approach a doctor’s visit efficiently
- Educate yourself. If you have a specific health condition, look for credible information sources to learn about the condition, in-tune to your body, and share potential concerns and treatment options with your healthcare team. Knowledge is power and can provide you with a sense of control and self-empowerment. For example, chronic health conditions, such as IBS and autoimmune diseases, can take a toll on a patient’s mental health due to their ongoing nature and life-altering symptoms. By knowing what is going on within your body and seeking support, your anxiety can be greatly reduced.
- Stay open-minded. On the flip side, don’t believe everything you read on the internet or by word-of-mouth. Self-diagnosis can be problematic if a patient disregards their doctor’s recommendations. Your doctor has medical school training and understands the specifics of your particular case, so hear them out. At the same time, be assertive when it comes to your health. If you do not feel heard or think you may have been misdiagnosed, do not be afraid to request additional tests or get a second opinion.
- Track your symptoms. A healthcare team can provide a much higher level of care if they know the details regarding your symptoms. Keeping a log of your health (daily, if needed) is a way to remember specific details and provide your care team with data they need to take appropriate action.
- Prep for your appointment. If you’re seeing a new doctor or visiting with your current healthcare team, don’t just sit back and assume they have all the information on your health history. Ensuring that your records have been transferred is important. At the very least, take a few minutes to jot down some notes about your family history, previous health issues, and any questions you may have. Doctors only have limited time to dedicate to each patient. Being as prepared as possible is a great way to get the most out of your face-to-face time.
- Bring additional support. It helps to bring a family member or friend with you to appointments to listen, take notes, remember details, or just provide added support. They can serve as an extra set of ears and to remind you of questions and details you might forget.
- Offer full transparency. Let’s face it, healthcare professionals have seen it all. It is their job to be there for you and make your health a priority. Your doctor’s office is a judgment-free zone, so do not be afraid to candidly share details about your health struggles that may be embarrassing. The more they know, the better they can help.
- Hold your care team (and yourself) accountable. If your doctors prescribe a certain medication, diet or lifestyle change, it is your job to follow it! In addition, if your doctor promises a specific action or you have more unanswered questions, follow-up! Patients and their care teams work best as partners in your healthcare.
How to best assemble your care team
The body’s systems are complex and intertwined. That is why assembling a healthcare team that shares information and collaborates to treat you as a whole person is essential, especially with a chronic or complex illness. It is counterproductive for doctors to work in silos and the patient doesn’t make an effort to relay critical information. For instance, the information gathered from a Gastroenterologist about a patient’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be a huge factor in a patient with depression and anxiety. Communicating this information to a patient’s mental healthcare provider is important.
Ensuring medical records are shared and there is clear communication will make the process of diagnosing and treatment much more efficient. While it is ideal for doctors to communicate this way, being your own advocate and taking responsibility is key. At the same time, patients should pay close attention to the overall scope of their treatment plan and identify any gaps. Assembling a strong team of healthcare professionals will prevent details from slipping through the cracks.
Doctors that practice integrative medicine are committed to treating you as a “whole person”, not just specific parts of you. They also focus on healthy lifestyle and prevention rather than primarily treating illnesses and diseases. Planted Forward is a group of integrative medicine doctors that provide online consultations and can help patients to understand the bigger picture when it comes to their health and wellbeing.
The bottom line is that only you know your body well. While healthcare professionals are essential, nothing matters unless you are willing to follow through and be accountable. So, take responsibility for your health and be the healthiest version of you!