A good doctor patient partnership is based on trust and honest communication, like all healthy relationships.
Here is a useful guide to help you get the most from that partnership and avoid any doctor patient relationship problems. It will ensure that your doctor understands your symptoms and can make an accurate diagnosis and advise on the best treatment pathway.
Do your ‘homework’ thoroughly before visiting the doctor to make the best use of your time.
With studies suggesting that the average consultation with a doctor is 8 minutes in the UK, being prepared not only makes efficient use of your doctor’s time but you’re also more likely to get an accurate diagnosis and subsequent medical care too.
So, if you are visiting a doctor for a first consultation or a second medical opinion, make sure you;
- keep a diary of your symptoms and make sure you take this to your consultation
- do some research online into your symptoms and write a list of written questions
- take a pen and paper to write down notes (studies have shown patients can forget about 50% of what a doctor tells them during a visit)
Tell your doctor all of your symptoms, starting from the time you first noticed that something wasn’t quite right. If you have written a diary on your condition and how it is affecting you – all the better. Be sure to inform the doctor of remedies you have already tried and whether you have seen another health care professional about the problem or issue.
There is no need to be shy or embarrassed about any problems, they have ‘seen it all’ and ‘heard it all’ before. They will not make a moral judgement of you or break any doctor patient relationship trust.
Make sure to always inform your doctor of any medication you are taking.
Ask about your diagnosis
Do not feel embarrassed or shirk from asking your doctor what he thinks is wrong with you. Surprisingly, many doctors are reluctant to give a name to a patient’s problems, so if you do not ask that specific question, you may not get an answer.
Make sure you ask your doctor to explain your diagnosis and how it may affect you and your family;
- What is my diagnosis?
- What is my prognosis?
- Do I need any additional tests or examinations?
- Is it possible to get a copy of any test results or scans for a second medical opinion?
- What changes, if any, will I need to make in my daily life?
- Will I need special help at home for my condition? If so, what type of help?
It’s all in the detail
Doctors aren’t mind-readers. You must tell them everything you know, think, and feel about your problem if you want an accurate diagnosis and the best treatment plan for your condition. You are entitled to raise relevant questions and to seek satisfactory answers to them in clear, plain English. It may help to ask for supporting or background reading material on your condition.
Some people find it useful taking a friend or relative to the consultation, as their presence can be calming but useful too. They can encourage you to ask relevant questions, and help you to interpret the doctor’s statements.
Copies of test reports and scans
Make sure you have copies of all your medical records and tests. You can give them to the doctor for his/her files, if needed – but keep your originals with you as they are your property. And, if you’re not completely happy with your initial diagnosis be aware that you can seek a second medical opinion? Diagnose.me is a specialist online health platform, which connects patients seeking a second opinion with some of the world’s leading specialists. They will find, confirm or correct a patient’s diagnosis. They only need the patient’s X-Ray, CT, PET-CT, ultrasound or MRI scans.
Visit diagnose.me for more information.
1. Howie JG, Heaney DJ, Maxwell M, et al; Quality at general practice consultations: cross sectional survey. BMJ. 1999 Sep 18;319(7212):738-43