One of the markers of a great GP is their ability to communicate effectively with their patient, and get a full understanding of a patient’s concerns, be they physical, emotional or psychological. But as with all communication, it is a 2-way process. There is much that you can do as a patient to aid this process and get the best possible care as a result. Read on for some simple tips to get the most out of every appointment — and improve your health in the process.
1. Ask the right questions
You should rightly expect clear communication from your doctors. But if you have any uncertainty, be sure to ask the following questions:
Why are you ordering this test?
Why are you prescribing a certain medication? What risks should I know about?
If a procedure or surgery doesn’t work — or I decide not to have it — what other options are available?
How often have you treated my condition?
What can I do on my own to improve the outcome?
2. Repeat and record!
A visit to the doctor comes with a rush of information and sometimes we miss key parts, or forget them the moment we walk out of the door. Try repeating what you heard back to the doctor or nurse, and ask if you got it right. And always take notes — or bring someone along to take notes — so you can remember later.
3. Know your record
Electronic medical records are becoming common. Some are even available through apps on your phone or tablet. If your doctor or hospital offers this option, use it. The more you know about what’s in your record — medications, procedures, conditions and more — the better you’ll be able to participate in your care.
4. Do your homework
Let’s face it, you’re probably going to turn to Google the moment you’re diagnosed with any given condition, or even just had it raised as a possibility. In the modern era, doctors understand that this comes with the territory. However, please don’t become anxious about what you find. Instead, use it to prepare questions or raise concerns when you meet with your doctor. And ask your care team for any educational materials they have.
5. Be open and honest
It is not easy to talk about bad health habits. Many patients are reluctant to own up to tobacco use, how much they drink, how much they really exercise or even about sexual issues. But sugar-coating bad habits or nagging symptoms does not help. Your doctors are confidential partners in your care. They need all the information available to help you make smart decisions. That includes everything from your habits to every medication you take, including over-the-counter drugs, herbal products, vitamins and supplements. If you aren’t consistently taking medication, talk to your doctor about.
6. Be a planning partner
At its best, the doctor-patient relationship is a genuine partnership, rather than a doctor-led dictatorship! There are many ways to skin a cat, and wellness goals and methods that suit one person may be entirely unsuitable for another. Get involved in creating everything from treatment plans to overall health goals. Want to lose 15 pounds? Talk with your doctor, nurse or registered dietitian about what diet and exercise will help you get there. Ready to stop smoking? Instead of waiting for a lecture on the dangers of smoking, ask for help crafting a plan to quit. From medications to therapy, help is available.
7. Stick with the plan
Having goals is important. Following through on a plan to reach those goals is even more important. Keep all follow-up appointments so you can check your progress. Take any prescribed medication as directed — and talk to your doctor if you have side effects and need to make adjustments. And whatever goal you settle upon, throw everything at it, doing everything you can to meet goals and milestones along the way. We all have missteps, so when you have trouble meeting a goal, let your care team know.
8. Seek well care, not sick care
Doctors these days focus on wellness and prevention in addition to treating disease. You can do the same. Even in the best of times, ask about ways to improve your diet, manage your stress or pick an exercise plan that works for you. Your doctor can’t hand you a prescription for these things. But they will still do wonders for boosting your health and preventing disease. We encourage all of our patients to engage fully with the any NHS screening programmes you are invited to join. You might wish to consider investing in an overall Wellness Screen, to give you a start point and pinpoint areas you may not even be aware of that you could focus on.