Thursday, February 24, 2011

A relationship with your primary care physician

An article recently published in The Wall Street Journal Health Blog, “Survey: What Doctors Want to Tell Patients (And Vice Versa)”, left me a bit shocked at some of the information yet excited to read patient and provider results together.

One of the key points that caught my attention was on the issue of respect and appreciation. According to the survey 70% of doctors said they were getting less of it from patients and patients said the more they were being treated respectfully and listened to, the more satisfied they were with their physician. To me that’s not surprising.

Featuring the results of the two surveys in the March issue of Consumer Reports indicates doctors said forming a long term relationship with your primary care physician is the most important thing patients can do to obtain better health care. Since 76% of physician’s say it would help “very much”, how can patients develop long term relationships amidst the current primary care physician revolving door? In my healthcare alone, my primary care physician has changed three times in the last five years due to change in clinic location and moving to another state.

These survey results support a key focus of Be The Change; The importance of strengthening patient provider relationships. Many current healthcare concerns would be diminished if we simply put more attention on the relationship between patient and provider. It’s the beginning, middle and the end of every “best possible outcome” we hear so much about in all types of healthcare from preventative to crisis emergency care.

Mothering a child with a rare disease as well as a breast cancer patient myself, I have spent many years developing all sorts of relationships with medical providers ranging in the good, the bad and the uncategorized.

Try these suggestions in forming a patient-primary care physician relationship:

  • When making the first appointment indicate you will need additional appointment time, which allows enough time for examination as well as questions and discussion.

  • At the first appointment discuss your intention to develop a long term relationship between the patient, family, and the physician including the clinic. Clearly define your expectations regarding appointment availability, how physician can be reached during the day and call back philosophy. Discuss emergency, nightly and weekend care protocols.

  • After the appointment record pertinent information in a patient-provider notebook brought to every following appointment, including prescription information.

  • Access if this physician met your needs both medically and relationally. If not repeat the process. That’s the most difficult part in developing a good relationship with a primary care physician. If the first appointment didn’t go as expected, make another appointment or seek out a different physician. Either way, the additional investment of time and energy will be well spent if the unthinkable happens to you or a family member.

Similar to relationships outside the medical arena, a relationship between doctor, patient and family evolves over time. Intentional effort centered in kindness and respect that comes from all parties makes a good solid relationship. In my experiences, when I viewed my doctor as a real person with human qualities like mine such as fatigue, frustration, fear and vice versa, we were better equipped to build an honest, trusting relationship.

Respecting, appreciating and improving the relationships between patient, family member and provider will most definitely enhance the human experience that occurs inside the medical one. All of us will be more satisfied with the end result when we consistently ask the question, how can I Be The Change?

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