Life as a doctor is stressful. From coping with high malpractice premiums and dealing with angry patients to managing the grief that comes with tending to the sick and dying, it's no wonder so many doctors seem so distracted and harried. But this distraction can harm patients. Over 100,000 people die due to preventable medical mistakes every year, and many of these mistakes wouldn't happen if the doctor listened to her patient. Sick of talking to a doctor who acts like a brick wall? Here's 5 tips on how to get your doctor to listen to you once and for all.
1. Do Your Research
Spend some time scouring the Internet before you go to the doctor, but make sure you only search credible sources, such as the CDC and Mayo Clinic. Learn all you can about your condition or the tests your doctor has planned. This means you won't waste time asking questions you could have answered on your own, thus freeing your doctor to answer more substantive questions.
2. Be Friendly
No one wants to help someone who's rude and aggressive. And often what seems like a medical mistake is actually your own failure to understand what your doctor is saying. Thank your doctor for her hard work, and patience, then couch your questions in non-threatening terms. Try phrasing things like this: “I could be wrong, but I've heard...” or “This guide says something different. Can you tell me how my case is different from that one?”
3. Ask Questions
Study after study has shown that people who asks lots of questions get better medical care. Their doctors are also more likely to listen to them. Ask questions such as:
- What are the best treatments for my condition?
- Are there any lifestyle remedies I should try?
- What are we testing for?
- Are there any other conditions that might explain my symptoms?
- What symptoms should I watch for?
- What can I do to help you get an accurate diagnosis?
4. Ask for a Second Opinion
If your doctor trusts her own work, she'll have no problem wittih you seeking a second opinion. A second opinion, especially if you've been diagnosed with a serious illness, also ensures that someone else checks your doctor's work. Ask for a referral to a second physician, then thank your doctor for her help and return to her as your primary physician.
5. Ask for Your Records
If you doubt your doctor's diagnosis or willingness to help you, ask for your records. You have a legal right to see them, and they may give you a fuller picture of your medical state. They also give you specific numbers that you can offer to other doctors, as well as terminology you can Google for clearer answers. After you've perused your records, don't hesitate to ask what they mean or to seek clarification on anything that seems to undermine something your doctor has said. Doctors respect patients who advocate for themselves, and they're less likely to make a mistake when they know their patients will be checking their work.