What Should I Ask My Doctor?

Fitness


This post written by Dr. Daniel Rieders was originally published on YourTango.

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 05:  A doctor speaks with a patient about her high blood pressure, or hypertension, on September 5, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Doctors in the country are demanding higher payments from health insurance companies (Krankenkassen). Over 20 doctors' associations are expected to hold a vote this week over possible strikes and temporary closings of their practices if assurances that a requested additional annual increase of 3.5 billion euros (4,390,475,550 USD) in payments are not provided. The Kassenaerztlichen Bundesvereinigung (KBV), the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, unexpectedly broke off talks with the health insurance companies on Monday.  (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)

Here’s what to do and ask before, during and after your visit.

Many men and women believe they own their bodies and their personal wellness, yet feel that their health care providers fall short when it comes to meeting their needs. This leaves them unsatisfied with the quality of medical attention they receive during doctor visits, yet essentially clueless as to what they can do to rectify that problem.

If your physician doesn’t seem to listen to you or makes you feel uncomfortable, as though you’re just being processed through the doctor’s office as part of a machine, rather than being treated as an individual who is trying to improve their health, then you are being cheated out of the your best life, vitality and health care possible.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your doctor listen?
  • Is your doctor distracted?
  • Is your doctor annoying?
  • In the room with your doctor, do you relax?
  • Does your doctor not display mastery of their trade?
  • Do you lose your voice, become passive, or feel uncomfortable?
  • Does your doctor try to be your friend and chat you up?
  • Does your doctor push pills, procedures or products on you, a sales job?
  • Do you feel pressured by limited time?
  • Do you feel like you are in a processing plant?
  • Does your doctor use jargon and not explain?
  • Have you received understandable information, so you can follow through with your physician’s recommendations?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you deserve better.

And you’re not alone.

Anytime you accept less than what you need or deserve or don’t get what you came for during a doctor’s visit, you’re not doing what’s best for you. And while you aren’t to blame, you’re also allowing an unhealthy system to fail at meeting your standards, and likely many other people’s as well.

So what should you do in order to get the best results from your doctor’s office visit? And how can this help you take better charge of your own health care?

Here are 3 ways to be sure you receive the best health care possible during a doctor’s visit, and how to speak up if you don’t get the medical attention you need.

1. Be prepared prior to your visit.

In some cases, you might actually know more about a movie, a restaurant, or an Airbnb rental than you do about the doctor you’re going to visit, so first be clear on what type of medical care you seek.

Are you looking for a pill to relieve your symptoms, like pain or a cold? Do you want a diagnosis or to learn the root cause of a diagnosis? Do you seek avoidance of premature death or aging? Do you seek the energy to pursue your heart’s desire? Or something else?

If you are looking for a pill, perhaps cheap and short wait times meet your bill. If you are looking for a diagnosis, you may want to check out reviews on social media, word of mouth, and the doctor’s certifications.

You may feel as though you have limited options based upon your health insurance and cash. Nowadays, there are a multitude of insurance and cash options to fit your needs. Spend some time choosing the right doctor within the confines of your plan.

Whatever your reason for visiting a medical clinic, it’s important to research what you need beforehand and work out the logistics.

Once you find a practitioner that meets your needs, researching them is an important next step.

For example, if they’re a surgeon, obtain their statistics. Look into how many of these procedures your doctor has performed, what his or her success rate is (be sure to find out they define a “successful” procedure), and what are the complication rates?

Say you’re getting a heart valve repaired and one surgeon’s success rate is 80 percent and another’s is 95 percent. The data is reliable, so go with the surgeon whose success rate is higher.

This also counts for doctor-to-doctor referrals. Just because one doctor recommends another one, you still need to go through a process. Check out social media and other published reviews, too.

If you do not trust the physician, find another. Your life depends on it.

Prior to your appointment, prepare written summaries of your healthcare history, a list of your questions and concerns, and pack a bag of your medications and supplements, so you can explain how and when you take every substance.

Make notes of your sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress, and relationships, too — so you can give your physician a more wholistic view of your health — and don’t forget your insurance information and identification.

Be on time. Turn off your phone when you’re in the exam room. Clear your mind. Relax. Breathe. Relax more.

2. During the exam, be assertive about what you need.

Be honest. Look your doctor eye-to-eye. Notice if your practitioner is distracted by a phone call, not sitting down eye-to-eye, or just not paying attention.

If this is a problem, it’s OK to ask for their undivided attention for your exam — your life depends on it. Be tactful, kind, assertive, and calm. Set the tone. Breathe.

If you doctor is not present, masterful, or doesn’t seem to have your best interests in mind, ask them to adjust.

Also consider how you feel about your doctor and the exam. If your doctor does not respond appropriately, you have the right to leave the visit at any time and seek health care elsewhere. It’s voting with your healthcare dollar. You can also write a review on social media.

When it comes to getting the best health care possible, everything you choose makes a difference. It all matters.

The way you choose is guided by the way you feel. So if you feel marginalized, nervous, agitated, or like you are being processed as if you were a piece of meat on a conveyor belt, you have the freedom to step off the belt and seek better care.

If you feel uncomfortable, voice it. Your doctor may adjust. Give them feedback. However, there is no excuse of being disrespected or marginalized.

It’s easier to adjust when you’re relaxed, so breathe and to eliminate your agitated arousal. It can also help your doctor to relax, since our biologies are hardwired to regulate each other.

Hopefully you will experience a skillful practitioner, get clear information and feel cared for, loved and truly heard. Otherwise, spend your health care voting dollars elsewhere.

The need to feel heard — by your physician or service provider — is innate human nature. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers found that waitresses who clearly repeated customers’ orders back to them got higher tips, indicating they feel they got more quality service.

In the study, two groups of waitresses served 30 people. One group of waitresses was friendly and chatty, but did not repeat the customers’ orders back to them — even though they clearly indicated they understood by saying things like “OK” or “coming up!”

The second group of waitresses repeated every part of each customer’s order back to them. The tips, a measure of customer satisfaction, were higher for the waitresses in the second group, who accurately read back the orders, rather than the friendly ones from the first group, who did not.

That’s why, when looking for a doctor, finding one that’s “on point” with the task at hand has a higher value — and is ultimately a stronger connector — than platitudes. Just like reading back orders validated that the patron was heard, the same applies to your physician

A lot can be accomplished in a little time when you and your doctor are sitting down, eye-to-eye, phone off, door closed, without distractions.

3. Follow your doctor’s advice after your visit.

Did you follow your doctor’s advice? If not, why? Do you feel relaxed with the encounter and the advice you received afterward?

Often, we need a night or two to sleep on an encounter in order to see the bigger picture. You may want to think of it like a meal. There is the anticipation before. Then the experience. How do you feel an hour after eating a meal, or in this case, going to the doctor? What about the next day?

Trust your feelings. There is no better gauge for measuring your care.


Ask yourself these questions:

  • No matter how I entered into the room, at some point did I relax, and become less anxious and aroused?
  • By the end, did I witness a skilled practitioner who cares about nothing other than my health and wellness?”
  • Did I receive enough information that I feel confident following my physician’s recommendations?
  • Do I feel cared for and loved?
  • Did I follow through with my doctor’s advice?

Training yourself and your physician to better tune into your health care needs may require some trial and error, but the key to getting the best health care possible is to start with yourself.

Dr. Daniel Rieders is a cardiologist certified in functional medicine, who believes in helping sick people get the care they need to live their lives to the fullest. He also works in shamanism and energy medicine to help heal people holistically. Visit his website to find out more.

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