10 Ways to Know You Need a Better Doctor
Years of painful experience taught me the important lesson 'when it comes down to diagnosis there is a lot of luck involved.' 'Ah' you say! 'but my doctor always finds the answers!' Excellent but this does not mean they are not lucky. The good doctors find the answer (or admit they could not) but the best doctors look beyond the answer to the whys and hows of the future.
Take charge of your medical care.
How Can You Know...
We become so accustomed to a doctor's actions our first reaction is to just assume 'they are the doctor and I'm the (not as smart) patient so of course we aren't being treated unfairly. The worst is not realizing the ignorance may be actually harming your health. If these ways sound scarily familiar to you then it may be time to reconsider just how you view medical care. Yes. There are doctors, like House, who work best like an a**hole but even our tv doctors have a system of reprimanding they face for their action. Who is monitoring your doctor's actions? It may be left up to you!
1. Prescription vs Prevention
Several years ago a family member of mine was pronounced as being pre-diabetic and sent home with a prescription. I take several medications so prescriptions are not anything new nor do I see them as bad. I did find it alarming the doctor never mentioned any route besides medication. I love this family member but they eat a poor diet, have weight issues, do not get enough exercise etc. As I say ‘medication is a bandage’ in his case. We had hoped the doctor would try to get through to him by emphasizing a lifestyle change which would put him on a path away from diabetes.
Everyone of us urged him to seek a second opinion and eventually he did. The other doctor immediately had him enroll in a course to learn about the importance of diet in taking care of diabetes. He learned so much it still amazes me. This doctor also stressed the importance of certain types of exercise to help in diabetic prevention. The medication remains but taking care of the other aspects (which has been a very slow process) is making great strides towards removing the bandage for a healthier life.
If your doctor’s first instinct is to hand you a prescription and send you out the door then be wary. One of my conditions grew worse and worse because the neurologist literally did just that. He ignored the other aspects which must be managed like reversing deconditioning, avoiding triggers like heat exposure, and maintaining a very high sodium intake.
2. Belittles You
Patients make suggestions. Sometimes they are stupid and other times they save a life. Much of the time they simply want a basic answer. My mother’s family has a long history of breast cancer so she asked her doctor if it was something she had a higher risk for. She was treated like an idiot because the doctor didn’t believe family history plays a role in breast cancer even though her mother, aunt, etc all had it.
Why any doctor would feel the need to belittle or poorly treat a patient’s questions is beyond me. Should they not take the higher road and explain the situation? If you asked the plumber you hired a question about the septic system and they were absolute snobs about answering would you hire them again? Probably not. No one appreciates being treated like an idiot because it is not their expertise.
3. Leaves You with More Questions than Answers
I wasn’t even unstrapped from my third tilt test before the neurologist literally walked away. When my father tried to ask questions the doctor brushed him off. Both of my parents were completely stunned. Yes I had not fainted during my tilt test but now what? Was the new medication going to solve my fainting issues? What about my other symptoms? What about the future?
If you find yourself looking up the answers because no one answered the questions then your doctor is not giving you adequate treatment. Sometimes doctor’s are just as clueless on a new syndrome as a patient. They do not have the answers. This is understandable.
Imagine if in school you were told something new but not allowed to ask questions. All of us would probably complain. We make excuses for our doctors (they are busy etc) where we wouldn’t for other professions. This is not adequate treatment. If a doctor is just as clueless on a new syndrome or disorder as their patient then it is their responsibility to be upfront honest. Simply saying ‘I’m sorry. We know very little about this but I will try to answer what I can’ is acceptable. We don’t ask for genius just good care.
I had a friend who had limited options on a baby doctor. The place she worked for had closed down so she lost her health insurance and her husband’s school one could not cover for her. Thank goodness they were able to get on an insurance with great doctors available. The doctor she saw before the new insurance came through did a fast overview without allowing time for anything but a hello.
She had a great many questions she came in wanting to ask and the doctor made it clear she had a busy schedule without the time to do it.
4. No Patient Confidentiality
I had a neurologist who called my parents about my test results without letting me know. At the time I was twenty-two. He downright lied when I asked about it. My own parents were completely confused as to why he was calling them instead of his own patient. Actually they were pretty stunned over his actions. I had another doctor who was also my sister and mother’s doctor. He spoke about varying things of theirs with me. I love my family and trust them to divulge their own information on their discretion.
If your doctor has given you doubts about his confidentiality clauses or knowingly broken confidentiality then it is time to seriously reconsider him. Doctors take a very serious oath regarding a patient’s strictest confidences. Some people entrust them with very big health secrets which they may not even be ready to share with their own family. There are times where doctors must share certain medical details (eg HIV etc). This will always be written in your confidentiality form which should be given to you to sign at each visit.
The best-selling true story behind the cells which doctors claimed without a family's consent. The life of Henrietta Lacks ended in death but her cells live on in labs throughout the world. Only recently is the family able to receive the recognition deserved.
5. Repeatedly Forgetful
Your internal medicine doctor is a busy person. He may see hundreds of people in a single week so it is not unreasonable for a little forgetfulness to exist. Over time the forgetfulness should decrease as the two of you form a patient-doctor relationship. They may not remember the names of your five dogs or great-aunt but important details should be a must.
I had one doctor who repeatedly got wrong my medications. Over time it just got to be worrisome because all they needed to do was glance at my chart in front of them! Just read it instead of talking about a pill I wasn’t even on. Finally the both of us reached a conclusion. Even though my doctor was phenomental, to the point of driving two hours to see them after their practice moved, it was no longer working out. The stress of now being attached to a hospital instead of private practice took an immense effort. She finally spoke up to tell me she felt my care needs were not being able to be met by her move. We parted ways knowing it was the best for my care.
Is your doctor-patient relationship getting more forgetful over time? It should not be. If you find yourself becoming alarmed at the way your medical needs are being met then re-evaluate. Maybe a change in medical facility or practice is causing stress in meeting an old patient’s needs? There are often reasons behind forgetfulness. The point is to come to a conclusion together which will be best for your care.
6. Making Eye Contact...
Eye contact makes a huge difference in any line of work but especially in medicine. I had one doctor who almost never made eye contact and pushed me out the door with medical records in hand. Looking back he was one heck of an untrustworthy man. Many people find those who do not make eye contact as suspicious or lying. All the cheesy ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul’ phrases hold a bit of truth. If your doctor, the person you are literally entrusting your entire well-being to, cannot hold your eyes with an honest look then it may be time to look elsewhere.
7.Communication is Nil
I have had doctors who did more talking with their palm pilot than me and doctors who communicated with me an astonishing amount. If you feel like you are just being talked ‘at’ instead of ‘to’ then there is something broken between you. How can a doctor fully examine a patient if they do not ask questions? Sure you can listen to their vital signs, take imaging, or such and still miss a key health symptom. If you feel like your doctor is not talking to you then initiate it. If you can open up a good line of communication then celebrate. If not, get out and find a doctor who will. You don’t want to be returning to the office an hour later because a symptom he never asked about became a full-blown emergency.
8. Refuses 2nd Opinions
I had several neurologists who absolutely balked at the very idea when I asked for a second opinion. One even accused me of ‘doctor shopping.’ Later I found out doctor shopping is a serious offense which involves receiving opiods narcotics etc and a whole lot of things I never knew of. All I wanted was a second opinion on his very diagnosis not medications (I wouldn’t want anything from that man). Instead I was treated with complete contempt for a simple request.
Good doctors will be open to getting a second diagnosis. I had one who laughed at the doctor shopping comment and said, ‘it’s not doctor shopping. You just want answers. If someone can’t help you then how is it shopping to find a doctor who can?’ He even encouraged visiting a place like Mayo for further help because he wanted to see me, the patient, succeed even if he himself was not able to help.
If the thought of asking your doctor fills you with terror or is greeted by a look like you have just become road kill then you need is a new provider. The patient’s help should be the priority. I had doctor’s who encouraged getting second even third opinions because my health is so important. Egos always should be left at the door.
9. Doctor Badmouth
I kid you not. I had this happen to me. My wellness doctor was once a part of the ****** Care which meant his name was well-known. He left because he wanted time to focus on patients instead of cookie cutter visits. This evidently made some doctors upset so when I came to get a bad cough looked at the doctor spent more time badmouthing my doctor’s style then asking me questions. I was appalled. What happened to patient care?
Doctors should be above speaking about petty rivalries with their patients. First off, that is behavior I expect more from teenage girls. Second, it really is not their place to criticize who you see. Your business is your own.
10. Shows No Compassion
Dictionary.com defines compassion as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” Whether it is a life-death situation or a bad case of the flu we go to our doctors looking to make us better. ‘That’s their job!’ we say. There are times we both are guilty of ignoring the other’s humanity. There are times when doctor’s don’t have the compassion to put themselves in a patient’s shoes. They give advice to a patient when they themselves would never follow it.
One of my family member’s doctors was very good in his field, had a poor bedside manner, but got things done. He was a machine until a serious back problem changed his life. The doctor underwent several painful surgeries just to be able to function. He didn’t practice for months because of his recovery. When he returned he shared how the experience had changed his patient-doctor relationship. ‘I have compassion for my patients. Being one changed my perspective completely.’
Does your doctor treat you with compassion? I have known many who did not and many who did. They did not hold my hand or say ‘I understand your woes!’ Instead they treated me like I was their number one patient priority. They never made false promises about the future but were honest with me. Their compassion gave me hope for a better future.