Tonight I’m going to a presentation being given by one of the authors on my books page, Dr. Leana Wen. What I like about Dr. Wen’s book, When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests, is that she and co-author Joshua Kosowsky, M.D. give suggestions for how we can better communicate with doctors and advocate for ourselves.
I think the most important suggestion is to make sure that your doctor has understood you correctly. Too often a visit to the doctor involves the patient giving a brief description of symptoms followed by the doctor asking questions that can be answered yes or no by the patient. The problem with yes and no answers is that they don’t allow enough detail in the answer and can leave a lot to the imagination. The more information you give your doctor the easier it will be for him to put your symptoms into context.
Think about when you’ve had to answer a survey. Have you been frustrated with some of the questions when none of the answers apply but you have to answer something so you pick one knowing it’s not quite true? What if the survey were to have a single question . . . Tell me your story? Then you could give your version and feel satisfied that you were able to describe everything.
Think of how much more your doctor can learn about your condition when you’re engaged in a conversation as compared to when you’re answering survey-type questions. A conversation goes both ways though so not only can you answer your doctors questions, but you can ask him or her questions, too, about what he’s thinking might be the problem and why they thinks the test(s) they’ve chosen will be the best for you.
Patients Are People, too.
We’re past the era when we simply accepted the medical professionals opinions and decisions without question. There are reputable resources available to us on the Internet and in hospitals to help us with the questions we’ve been afraid to ask. As I find them, I’ll list them on my resources pages.