Updated: Jul 2, 2019
As a Health Advocate, this is the most common complaint I hear from my clients. Remember, healthcare professionals too are humans, often overworked and stretched for time and resources. There are ways to try and make the most of your time with them and communicate effectively.
I cannot begin to tell you how many times people have contacted me saying that their doctor just doesn't listen and is so uncooperative. But, think about it, put yourself in their shoes, and try to look at the situation from a different angle. As a patient, planning ahead of your appointment and remaining calm can help facilitate a good conversation with your healthcare provider.
Having worked in the healthcare industry for more than 10 years, I have witnessed numerous situations where doctors and patients experience some very strong emotions. If either one loss control of their emotions, it has a negative impact on the relationship between them. This turns into a lose-lose situation.
Here's how I would turn it into a win-win situation, thereby enabling you to make the most of your limited time with a healthcare provider:
1. If you know what your appointment is about, think about it for some time. Write down your thoughts, concerns and questions. Remember to put the most pressing issues on top of the list. Take this list to the appointment, and use it as a framework to guide your conversation. Try to remain calm and composed.
2. The very fact that you appear calm and organised will have a positive impact on the interpersonal dynamics between you and your doctor. If possible, bring a trusted companion to the appointment as an extra pair of eyes and ears.
3. If you think you have a few more questions than usual, give the office receptionist and your doctor a heads up on this. When you check-in at the receptionist's desk, tell them how you feel, and tell them you might need a few extra minutes with the doctor. The receptionist might pass this on to the doctor, and the doctor in turn will most probably set out limitations. They might agree to discuss things with you for a set amount of extra time, or they might suggest you book another appointment for an in-depth discussion.
4. Always show respect and appreciate your doctor and their staff for their hard work and time. Under no circumstances should you raise your voice, threaten them or use inappropriate language and gestures. Always try to look at the situation from another angle, and share how you feel.
5. Be patient, and try not to talk over the healthcare professional. Let them finish before you ask another question. If you are confused about something, ask them to repeat the information, or tell them what you understand, and they will help clarify the issue.
6. Understand that if your request for a test or a referral is being denied, there is a reason for it. Ask the healthcare provider to explain their decision.
7. Another good practice is to write down information that you have been given. Sometimes, appointments can be emotionally exhausting, or there could be an information overload. Jotting down some key points can help you think clearer and make better decisions.
In any case bringing a trusted companion to appointments is a good idea. You can also connect with a Health Advocate to be your voice, and ensure you get the best possible care.
Communication is key when it comes to maintaining a good relationship with your doctor and their staff members. Make sure you go to your next appointment prepared and ready to communicate effectively. Make sure you have been a good listener before you say "they just don't listen!".
Feel free to connect with me or leave a comment.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.