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Getting the Most Out of Doctor Visits – Asking Better Questions

Your doctor has a lot of experience, expertise, and knowledge about your medical condition. However, in a busy setting and especially one in which the doctor views you as yet another customer it’s hard to really connect. Vulnerability is an important part of the patient-doctor relationship and it goes both ways. Getting the most out of doctor visits requires a bit of insight into the patient-doctor relationship.

Asking Questions

Your doctor should always be willing to answer your questions. Hopefully calmly and patiently. If your questions are dismissed or you feel the doctor isn’t answering them that is cause for concern.

Of course, there is a limit. Asking the same questions and hoping to get a particular answer will undoubtedly frustrate even the calmest physician.

Questions should be asked to clarify what the physician said and claimed. There should be explanations about what the disease process is and what to expect next and when to come back for follow-up.

In fact, if a patient starts asking questions the best doctors will take it from there. They will fill in the gaps and answer the questions you didn’t even think to ask.

Question the Expertise

If I’m a surgeon about to perform a cartilage resurfacing of the patella I would want my patient to ask me questions about why the procedure is necessary and how good I am at doing them.

There is nothing wrong with asking the doctor how many such procedures they have had, how many were successful, how many needed revisions, and how many complications took place.

When the patient doesn’t ask questions as physicians it’s easy to view them as yet another number on an op schedule. When they ask questions, share fears, and tell us stories we remember the person we are operating on. It’s really powerful.

The physician who is offended by your questions about their expertise, even if you didn’t ask it in the nicest manner, may be doubting their skills or not be the right surgeon for you.

The world’s greatest surgeon or internist isn’t the right doctor for you if you cannot communicate with them.

Asking About Alternatives

The best physicians will give you lots of options for your treatment. They are willing to refer you for further testing, offer home remedies, and prescriptions, and recommend sources for further reading.

Here at Digital Nomad Health, we believe that each patient has a unique way of healing. No two people are alike. And yet all of them need to believe in the patient-doctor relationship or else there is little room for healing.

We gain our patient’s confidence by explaining a disease to them. It’s important to educate but also empower the person to understand how their condition can progress and what is in their control.

Being Vulnerable

This is important to me and I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing for my help.

Doctors are quite attuned to sensitive and vulnerable patients even though it can at times be exhausting to constantly be vulnerable. Though medical training has roughened the edges we immediately want to take care of someone who appears fragile or in need of help.

Share a personal story of a family member or a fear you might have. Talk about how your mind is catastrophizing all options and what keeps you up at night.

Honesty is vulnerability. Expressing how you feel without attacking the other person or sharing your feelings without putting it on the other person is vulnerability and it’s honest.

Get Granular

Some individuals prefer details because it puts their mind at ease while others like to understand the concepts but don’t want to get caught up in details.

If details are what you’re after explain to the doctor that your brain works by really understanding a process. Your doctor may tell you that they’ll have to read up on the process or the details to properly explain it to you.

In matters when you’re asking about the mechanism of action of a certain medication remember that such information was taught to us when we were in medical school – we are happy to freshen up on it but may not retrieve it on the spot.

Be Patient

Not all conditions are easy to diagnose. In fact, most simple conditions don’t even require a physician for proper diagnoses. Most of our patients have a good idea of what is going on with them, what their risks are, and what they need.

The art of medicine and the hard part of medicine is knowing which intervention is most likely to succeed in that particular patient at that particular time. And which tests are going to be the most important for the proper diagnosis and not be misleading.

This process takes time and even with all the money and technology in the world time is needed to see how one intervention behaves. This, in turn, will help your doctor determine what the next steps are.

Invest in the Relationship

Your Primary Care doctor has a lot of knowledge and expertise especially when it comes to managing chronic diseases and working up yet undiagnosed conditions.

A relationship, of any type, is an investment; the more you put into it the more you’ll likely get out of it. It takes time and it often pays off – especially when it comes to health.

There is plenty of data to show that those with long-term patient-doctor relationships tend to have better outcomes compared to those who are only able to get intermittent care.

If that day comes when your yet unknown diagnosis is causing you major suffering it’s going to be that relationship you built with your physician that will get you through it.

The more time you’ve invested the more likely that you can be completely hands-off if necessary and trust your physician will be your advocate.

Take Follow-ups Seriously

When you go back for follow-up this is the time to express any gaps in knowledge or frustrations. What went well, how were you let down, what did you expect, what are you willing to try next and what is completely out of the question?

If your doctor suggested a certain home remedy which you didn’t try it’s more important for them to know why. Perhaps you weren’t motivated or didn’t believe it would work or maybe you are just fed up with your condition.

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