Maybe you’ve experienced the following. You have a health ailment and go to the doctor’s only to find that you’re treated like a second class citizen, or you’re patted on the head like you’re an ignorant little girl who shouldn’t be taken seriously. Let’s face it – the medical profession tends to be overly paternalistic and patronizing to patients, especially women. The costs can be severe – pain, suffering, and even death. Don’t let yourself become a medical victim; instead, become an empowered Patient, get the right diagnosis on the first visit, and receive the best possible medical care.
Here are three tips to help you have a positive (as in “positive for your health”) doctor patient relationship:
1. Don’t be a “good patient. ” In The Empowered Patient, author Elizabeth Cohen argues that “good patients” get lousy medical care. If your condition doesn’t improve, and you’re still going to the same physician, you’re a “good patient.” If you worry about what the doctor thinks about you or about insulting your doctor or about sounding stupid or about asking for a second opinion or about leaving your doctor, you’re a “good patient.” Instead, be a “difficult patient.” Ask lots of questions, remember that a doctor’s visit is a business transaction and look out for YOUR best interests.
2. Find the best doctors BEFORE you need them, in other words, when you’re healthy. Visit patient review sites like Vitals (www.vitals.com), do an Internet search under your prospective doctor’s name to see what information pops up. Find your state’s medical review board online to see if the doctor has any actions against him or her. I, personally, like to visit my county’s property records and county clerk web pages to find out where the physician lives, mortgage information, and lawsuit information. (Avoid doctors who live lavishly and have lots of debts and lawsuits against them, because they’re much more likely to treat their patients like revenue generators). Be sure to visit your prospective doctors, ask lots of questions, and see if you’re comfortable with them before you commit.
3. Recognize a possible misdiagnosis early on.
You’re not getting any better.
You visit reputable sites like WebMD (www.webmd.com) or the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com) and discover your symptoms and diagnosis don’t match.
Your diagnosis is based on a single test.
Your symptoms could be due to a variety of ailments, yet your physician insists on just one. Doctors Leana Wen and Joshua Kosowsky in When Doctors Don’t Listen argue that most physicians practice “cookbook” medicine and zero in on just one symptom. If they’ve chosen the wrong symptom and ignored the others, your health is in jeopardy.
Your gut tells you your diagnosis is wrong.
Don’t suffer. Go back to your doctor’s office. Dr. Jerome Groopman in How Doctors Think says to ask your physician, “What else could this be?” Ask why you were given a particular diagnosis and demand answers. Get a second opinion if you have to.