In a recent survey about better doctor/patient communication, 80% of respondents said they wanted better communication with their doctors “in sickness AND in health”. Over half of the respondents also believe that even a simple message from their doctor could have avoided a health problem.
I know that I am right there with this group.
Just last week after consulting “Dr. Google” and friends, I called my physician’s office to request a certain medication. Word came back to me through an assistant that I needed an office visit.
“No,” I responded, “I need the physician to call me back.” 10 minutes later, the phone rang. I asked the doc to explain her position and when she did, I realized that my research was faulty as was my friend’s advice.
“What to do?” I asked.
“Yes, that’s right.”
I was relieved and pleased and expressed a very grateful “Thank You”.
Afterwards, I began mulling over the advantages of that simple two-minute phone call. It put me at ease and reminded me once again that my doctor’s education and experience counts.
But, in this age of internet search and e-patient forums, we can often fall into the trap of putting the doctor last.
Why is that?
For me, the most profound change in the last few years has been the very nature of my health insurance. Since I have a Healthcare Savings Account (HSA), I’ve noticed that my behavior about physician visits and all other medical costs has been more thoughtful; I think about every expenditure since it comes out of my pocket.
As long as we have third party insurance companies paying for patient costs, what incentive does the patient have in being judicious with the funds?
Here’s the rub: our health system is based on fees. That means my doctor is paid for those 10 minute visits and not for talking with me over the phone. However, since she returned my call, I feel even more comfortable with her “in sickness and in health”.
It’s complicated. And, it’s changing. By understanding the system’s constraints as well as our rights as patients, each of us can learn what works for us with our doctor/patient relationship.
Remember, if I can do it, you can too.
P. S. As I’m getting ready to post this blog, I want to share with you a NY Times column that illustrates the potential dire consequences of self-diagnosis without consulting your doctor just to save money.
Publisher, Well-Fed Heart
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