Reader’s Digest recently interviewed doctors and commissioned a wide-scale survey to learn what doctors are really thinking, and what they would tell us, their patients, if they were being totally honest. Part 1 of this series discussed the first five items on the list.
Here are numbers 6 through 10 on the doctors’ truth-telling list:
6. “You’d don’t a prescription, especially antibiotics.”
Many patients don’t feel a visit to the doctor is complete without a prescription. Dr. Shelby Karpman, a doctor in Alberta, describes the problem.
It always happens—especially with antibiotics. Patients have been trained through past history, through media, through friends, that if they walk out of a physician’s office without a prescription, they haven’t been treated properly. Quite frankly, there aren’t that many conditions that need antibiotic treatment. I have numerous patients who come in with cold or flu symptoms – for which antibiotics aren’t warranted – who insist they need an antibiotic. I take the time to explain that antibiotics don’t work for viruses, but a number then go to a walk-in clinic, where some of the physicians are less interested in patient education than in churning patients through. They write a prescription and the patient walks off thinking, Next time I have a cold I’ll come here, I won’t see Karpman.
Don’t be that patient. Discuss treatment options so you are satisfied you understand the doctor’s opinion, but recognize that there isn’t a pill for every problem.
7. “Come into my office with a clear list of symptoms.”
As one doctor in the survey said, “I’m not a mind reader. Playing ‘stump the doctor’ is a waste of everyone’s time and is bad medicine for you.”
Take a little time before your appointment and write down the chronology of your complaint. When did it start? How has it developed? Where is the discomfort, and how can you describe it?
As a patient, be clear, concise and as detailed as possible.
8. “Don’t ask me to renew your prescription by phone.”
Your doctor has a legal obligation to review your situation before he prescribes or renews medication. He may need to check your blood pressure, or understand the progression or return of your symptoms. Also, as one doctor put it bluntly, “I don’t get paid to provide telephone service.”
As a patient, know how many refills the doctor is allowing before you walk out the door with a prescription, then be understanding when you need a return visit for a renewal.
9. “Pay attention to your personal hygiene.”
Doctors know they have to deal with a certain amount of bodily unpleasantness, but they are only human. One doctor was frank about the problem:
I understand that sometimes a patient comes in from work. But some are routinely dirty. I’ve had patients with an incontinence problem and they always smelled of urine. Frankly, I may not be giving them the time they need because I’m overwhelmed by the smell.
As a patient, you may find it hard to look your best when you feel sick, but take the time to shower well and brush your teeth.
10. “Don’t hand me a stack of articles you’ve downloaded from the Internet.”
The Internet can be a treasure trove of information for patients, but it is also a source of much questionable information. One doctor said:
We had a pilot who argued with us over the fact that we wouldn’t let him fly, and who proceeded to bombard us with 1,500 pages of information he had downloaded from the Internet. Not one of the pages had solid scientific information based on peer-reviewed studies—but it did support his position.
As a patient, ask your doctor’s opinion on reliable websites for health information. If you think you have found something new you would like him to factor in, discuss it with him and respect his scientific education and experience.
The bottom line? Doctors are people, and like the rest of us, they’d just like some respect and consideration.