By Kris McFalls
Recently, I saw a specialist after I began experiencing symptoms I didn’t want to talk about, let alone write about. He did some poking, prodding and testing, and declared nothing was wrong. But, he did prescribe medication, as well as instructed me to reduce the stress in my life. Unfortunately, the medications never worked, and the symptoms got worse. So, after many more months of worsening symptoms, I returned to the doctor. And, the appointment went something like this:
Kris: Hey doc, I’m still having these symptoms and they are getting quite…
Doctor: Wow you look much better than the last time I saw you. Are you taking the medications I prescribed?
Kris: The medications just didn’t seem to help, so I stopped and…
Doctor: Do you think your job is causing you stress and anxiety?
Kris: My job is busy, but I enjoy what…
Doctor: Yea, you really should try to get your stress level down. Let’s do some blood work just to be safe. Take the medications as prescribed, and come back if you have more problems. It was great to see you.
Fact: 23 seconds. On average, that is the amount of time research shows a patient will have to speak before the doctor interrupts. The appointment, including an exam, formulating a treatment plan and writing chart notes and prescriptions, will last 10 to 20 minutes
Fact: In a 2009 study, the CDC reported that the time required to deliver the recommended primary care is three times what is available per physician. To meet current guidelines for patients with chronic diseases, physicians would have to work 22 hours a day.
These facts can leave a patient feeling helpless and worried. And, the doctor is left feeling like there is no way he or she will ever be able to give the quality of service the patients deserve.
In my case, I didn’t feel this particular doctor ever heard me finish a sentence and was more concerned about getting to his next appointment than figuring out what was wrong with me. Every appointment ended with the phrase: “Come back if you have any more problems.” Hello! That is why I went there - because I was having more problems.
My doctor wasn’t rude, and he attempted to project empathy. He was demonstrating kindness with his countenance and encouraging me to come back any time. I, on the other hand, felt like I was speaking a foreign language. It seemed the relationship just wasn’t working.
Given the lack of time both doctors and patients have, the key to a productive visit is building a good relationship. And, like any good relationship, compatibility matters. Some doctors and patients prefer quick, straight-to-the-point conversations. Others prefer slower, more detailed explanations for complete understanding. When the two sides mesh, good things happen.
Relationships take work, and the doctor-patient relationship is no different. Sometimes, the path to a better relationship is simply a different relationship. In my case, although I liked the doctor’s personality, it was apparent that we were never going to mesh. Changing doctors was the key for me.
Give us your feedback. In a society where faster is better, how do you make your doctor-patient relationship work?
Scroll down now to leave comments for this post - let’s start the conversation!