Your Doctor Needs Your Help

A good, open relationship between a doctor and patient is the key to good health care and successful treatment. The doctor has medical  knowledge, experience, and access to resources including medications, therapists, hospitals, nutritionists, diagnostic tests, and specialists. The patient knows his or her symptoms in detail, as well as aspects of his or her lifestyle that might affect the progress of an illness or the ability to follow the doctor's advice. The doctor and patient can combine their knowledge to develop a successful strategy for healing.

The more a doctor knows about a patient's situation, the better he or she can diagnose the cause of the patient's symptoms and create an effective treatment plan.

When you visit a doctor's office, you are asked to fill out a questionnaire about your symptoms, your past medical history, and your family history. Your answers give the doctor a foundation for understanding your particular situation. When you speak to the doctor, it is important to describe how you feel in detail, tell the doctor your concerns, and ask questions. You cannot expect your doctor to be a detective and diagnose your illness just by looking at you and taking your temperature.

In the same way, you need to respond to the doctor's recommendations with any concerns you have, or any objections to the course of treatment. You might have an aversion to blood tests, or your health insurance might not cover certain costs. Your doctor can then work out an alternative plan, or explain why a particular test is important.

My patient needs to be honest with me so that I can do my job as doctor. For example, I suggest a course of action, such as cutting cheese and dairy foods out of the diet, or getting some blood tests done.  My patient sits there nodding agreement, but thinking, "There is no way I am going to do that!"  Three months pass, and the patient comes in for a checkup and announces, "I'm still eating cheese," or, "I never made an appointment for those tests." That means three months have gone by, during which the patient has received no treatment at all for his medical condition. It would be much better if the patient said in the first place, "I don't want to do that." Then we could try a different approach, or medication instead of a change in diet.

Some people feel their doctor is too busy to talk to them, or they feel shy confiding intimate details about their symptoms. Your doctor wants to know everything that might help to diagnose and treat your illness. Prepare for your doctor visit by writing a list of questions, and voice any worries you have. A few extra minutes spent talking to your doctor now could save hours spent trying to pinpoint a diagnosis later, and might help you avoid unnecessary tests.

You and your doctor are partners. It takes both of you to ensure you get the best care and the most effective treatment.

Filed Under


Internal Medicine

Weight Loss