Great medical care relies on good two-way communication between you and your doctor. / Getty Images / Thomas Barwick
Great medical care relies on a good patient-doctor relationship. Peter Ubel, a physician and behavioral scientist at Duke University and author of Critical Decisions, shares how we can make stronger connections.
Know thyself. “Often, the right medical treatment depends on a patient’s preference,” Ubel says. “If your doctor doesn’t understand your values, he can’t recognize the right treatment for you.” Seek a relationship in which the doctor can make suggestions based on what you want rather than simply telling you how to proceed. “If you don’t think a doctor could describe to a stranger what you’re like and what you care about, then it’s not going the way it should.” said Ubel.
Demand equal time. How can the doctor get to know you when there’s so little time? “You know when your doctor is 120 minutes late to see you? They are spending that time with someone,” Ubel says. “You deserve the doctor’s time as well.” And let your doctor know if you are confused, scared or feeling rushed by anything at the visit. “The doctor can’t read your mind, and if you don’t ask questions or you nod your head, they’ll assume you agree with every recommendation they make for you,” said Ubel.
Do your part. Doctors ought to be great communicators, but many are not. Realize you have a role, too. Bring a loved one with you, especially when important decisions need to be made. Your loved one can say, ‘I don’t understand, Doctor,’ when you are too polite or shy to stand up for yourself.
And if you aren’t happy with the care you’re receiving, speak up. “You have the right to decide what happens to your body. It doesn’t feel that way when you’re half-naked on an exam table, but you are ultimately in charge.”