How often are we brining up this topic??!
The reason is that there are so many aspects to communicating, and it is the key to successful management of your RA – whether you are talking to a friend, a family member, or your doctor.
In the most recent issue of O magazine, Dr. Mehmet Oz discussed the MD’s perspective on what is most important in patient-physician conversation. You may want to look up his whole article, but there are a few highlights I want to underscore.
Dr. Oz goes back to a study that indicates physicians spend only 23 seconds of listening before they interrupt their patients. That’s probably not news to you – except the part about the validated study! So what do you do with that information? Refuse to get sidetracked. Write down what you want to know and keep referring back to your concerns. Ask the physician if there is another way to get your questions answered. Do they use email or a physician’s assistant or some other way to allow you to ask about symptoms, side effects or medication issues? Here’s where you remember that you need to be in charge – and that’s a challenge!
Part of being in charge is keeping track of all that’s said – and making sure you understand it. Can you bring someone to help you? Is it possible to tape record the appointment so you get all the information and can listen to it on your own time? What’s the best way for you to take notes? Knowing that there is going to be a lot of information, and often new vocabulary, at a time when you may not be feeling well makes it even more important to find some ways to understand what your doctor is telling you.
Tell the truth. Hmmmm. How many times have you been tempted to make yourself sound better than you are because you don’t want your doctor to think you’re a whiner? When have you stretched the truth about how much medication you’re taking? Minimizing the number of painkillers or pretending you take all your medication when really you’re trying to cut back? Any way you dodge the truth can be harmful to you. Your doctor is not your mother – the physician needs accurate information in order to treat you appropriately. That includes those questions about how much alcohol you drink, or what kind of sex life you have and whether you’re smoking or taking recreational drugs. It all matters – and can make a difference in your treatment.
Those are the top issues – but I suspect you have more ideas about how to communicate well. Most of these ideas in this column are things you can do, but another essential aspect of communication is how your docs talk to you. We’ve heard lots of horror stories, but I know there are lots of physicians who do an excellent job of getting their message across. I am collecting “best practices” that you have experienced, and in September I will be hosting a call in program where we can share these stories with each other. Start thinking of how your doctor does it right. I’ll be eager to hear and share!