Effective doctor-patient communication is critical to building a therapeutic doctor-patient relationship, which is at the heart of delivering high-quality healthcare.
When there is open and productive communication, doctors and patients are more effective in exchanging information, patients have greater comprehension of their medical issues, and they are more empowered in decision making about their own care. Yet, studies show that doctors tend to overestimate their abilities to communicate and patients list poor communication as a key frustration.
Many people feel some level of intimidation when in a medical consultation. Effective, proactive and compassionate communication can be very challenging when your appointment is limited to just 15 minutes of your doctor’s time. Add in the adoption of electronic medical records, and those scant 15 minutes can largely be spent with a doctor looking into a computer screen vs their patient’s eyes. Feelings of vulnerability increase when a patient is being treated with disbelief and even disdain by their healthcare provider. All too often, this is the case with ME/CFS and FM patients.
While doctors, medical schools, hospitals and healthcare systems need to find ways to foster a healthier listening environment and more pro-active listening skills, there are some tools and techniques patients can adopt that may help improve their doctor-patient communication.
Cultivate Confidence. You should be your own best advocate. Embrace the idea that your agenda is as important as your doctor’s. Make conscious efforts to adopt practices and a posture that will ensure your needs are met while still respecting the constraints that are often placed on your doctor.
Take Time to Prepare. Prior to your visit, take a few moments to think through and write down items that you want to cover in your visit. What do I want to tell my doctor today? What do I want to ask my doctor today? Are there any complementary or alternative therapies I should share? Before you leave, refer to your list and make sure all of your questions were answered. At the end of your visit, ask the doctor who you can call if you have more questions.
Put It In Writing. Studies show that up to 80% of the medical information patients receive is forgotten immediately and nearly half of the information retained is incorrect. Have a small notebook that is dedicated to your doctor visits, take it with you every time, and take notes. Better yet, invite a family member or friend to accompany you and ask them to take notes for you.
Put Technology to Work. Wearable accessories and devices count our steps, monitor our heart and breathing rate, and can track our food and water intake. Our smart phones keep us connected while there are apps to count calories, track symptoms and pain, monitor sleep. There are a handful of apps specifically design for those with ME/CFS and FM. Explore what is available and find one that you can put to work for you.
The Bateman Horne Center is dedicated to improving the quality of healthcare well beyond our own clinic walls. We are working for the day when first-class care is the standard among ME/CFS and FM patients world-wide, rather than the rarity it is today. Until this is realized, we want to be a resource to empower patients in their own healthcare process.
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