5 Ways To Be a Better Patient (you’ll get better care because of it)

Being a patient can be hard. You come in with aches, pains, questions, and sometimes fear to a doctor’s visit. You wait to be seen, you wait for results and ultimately you wait for a diagnosis.

Patients are half of the doctor-patient relationship, and they need a few rules of their own to help make their medical care experience a more positive one.

Rule 1: Be honest.

I think the main reason most people are untruthful is that they are embarrassed about the truth. While I can sympathize with this feeling, I don’t see any good reason to be anything but truthful with your doctor.

Many patients present to the ER with chest pain and lying about tobacco or drug use can impact your care since some diseases are associated with certain lifestyle habits.

Yes, your symptom might sound strange. Yes, you may have flubbed up and not followed instructions properly. Yes, you may be afraid of what some of your symptoms may mean. But the goal is to fix (or prevent) problems, and trying to do that with bad information is an exercise in futility.

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Rule 2: Your doctor can’t do it alone.

The best doctor can do very little with patients who ignore instructions. Sometimes noncompliance is partly due to physicians not explaining things well, but medical compliance is ultimately in the hands of the patient. I am mystified as to why some patients will ignore nearly everything I say and continue coming to the ER for the same complaint.

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Rule 3: Ask a ton of questions

If you understand the rationale behind a doctor’s recommendation, then you’re more likely to embrace it and independently engage in a treatment. Researchers at the University of Rochester have found that people who ask the most questions about a recommended treatment are also the ones most likely to follow it—and achieve the best health outcomes. As pressed for time as physicians are I have found my most satisfied patients are the ones who have expressed all their concerns and questions and the doctor took the time to answer them.

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Rule 4: Go ahead and consult Dr. Google

I’m all for patients researching their symptoms. But when they come in insisting on an MRI that a search on google may have lead them to I cannot comply. What I do appreciate, is when patient’s research and educate themselves when doing an internet search on their symptoms. Even when the information we find online is solid though, it’s not contextualized. It is my job to consolidate your symptoms and research to make the proper diagnosis.

Bottom line: As long as you use the Internet to self-educate rather than self-diagnose, a little online research can be a good thing.

Rule 5: Don’t mess with the staff

My staff takes an incredible amount of abuse at the hands of some of my patients. It surprises me what they are willing to say to my nurses and clinical staff but not to me. In general, people see them as an obstruction to being able to see their doctor, and so have little patience for any delay.

There are certainly times that my staff is worthy of criticism, and I expect to hear some complaints. But in general, it is not the individual staff’s fault for things not running well. If they don’t meet your expectations, yelling at them won’t fix the problem. Talk to the physician, chances are really good that your frustration correlates to a frustration we all may have

Being respectful, kind and polite to your treatment team goes a long way. It makes for smoother patient care and better understanding between the two parties.

What do you think? As a patient, do you follow these rules? To my healthcare colleagues do you have anything to add to this?  Comment below!

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