- Question from Joann: How about dictating and giving patients a written report, letter, memo, or e-mail, to state and explain findings? That way, things don't get forgotten, as they can with verbal information.
Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H.
There's a study that found that patients actually prefer an audiotape to a written summary letter. You can ask to have a copy of a letter that a doctor writes to your primary care physician. Most offices can't generate a letter both to a referring doctor and to a patient, so that's probably not a workable option.
On the other hand, you can bring a portable recorder with you and tape your doctor's visit. Some doctors find this a little off-putting. Sometimes we feel such information could be used against us in a court of law. Reassuring your physician that this is the best way for you to listen to and process a great deal of information should put him or her at ease.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. Flatter them! Doctors love to be complimented, and they also love to receive tokens of appreciation. They are people. All people love positive reinforcement. In a relationship where you really want to get what you want, positive reinforcement is essential lubrication. If you give your doctor positive reinforcement, you will probably have more of your questions answered, and you will probably get a more responsive interchange.
- Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. Chocolates, in particular, can be both a kindness and lunch, as it was for me today. :-)
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. Especially dark chocolates! :-) All of you who are reading along are experts at creating and nurturing relationships in general. But sometimes, when it comes to the doctor-patient relationship, you lose confidence in your ability to navigate. That's because the relationship is so important, intimidating, and inherently lopsided—the doctor has the expertise, s/he is fully dressed, you're usually not, you're the one with the health concern, they are presumably well, it's their terminology, their turf—not yours, and you're the one who had to wait to see them. This inherent lopsidedness can set things up in a way that feels uncomfortable and throws you off. When in doubt, just trust your instincts and draw on your ability to handle this relationship as you would any other human relationship.
- Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. If you question the strength of your relationship with your doctor, it may help to bring along a friend or family member who hasn't been at every appointment. That person can be a sort of gauge for you. They can debrief with you after the visit, and they can either reinforce or provide a contrasting view of your impression of the relationship.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. If you are unsatisfied with your relationship and decide to find another doctor, it's best to find the next doctor before you cut off your relationship with the old one. It can be difficult to change doctors because these are intense, important relationships. Put your personal energy into creating the new relationship. And, at a later time, when you have more space and energy, you can let the old doctor know why you chose to move on, if that's important to you.
On Wednesday, February 19, 2003, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called The Doctor-Patient Relationship. Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about how to find the right doctor for you, and how to create and maintain a good, open relationship with your doctor so you can be sure to get all the care and information you need.
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