A Stronger Doctor-Patient Relationship Means Better Health for You

November 03, 2010

Doctor consulting with a patient

Recent studies have found that a personal connection between a doctor and a patient improves the quality of care. A U.S. News and World Report article reported "researchers found that people who have a strong relationship with a specific doctor are more likely to receive care that's consistent with recommended guidelines."

So, now that you know there are positive benefits to a strong doctor-patient relationship, how do you build one?

The American Academy of Family Physicians has a few tips that are shown below. If you start following these steps, you'll be well on your way to setting up a strong relationship with your doctor.

Talk to your doctor

It sounds easy, but you would be surprised at how many people are afraid to talk to their doctor. Some people just don't know what to say to their doctor. The key is to relax. Talk and share information with your doctor much like you would with a friend.

Tell your doctor about any current or past healthcare issues or problems. Let your doctor know about any symptoms you are having or any medicines you are taking. Give your doctor a full health history of your life. For some people, it helps to write a short "health journal" on a sheet of paper before they go to the doctor to help them remember.

Also, let your doctor know what's going on in your life, such as whether you are feeling stressed or if anything in your life is changing. Although you may feel like some things going on in your life aren't important to your doctor, you would be surprised at how often your emotions can affect your health.

Ask questions

What may be the most important advice to know when you visit the doctor is to speak up. You need to let your doctor know if you don't understand something. Sometimes doctors may talk about something in medical or technical terms. Asking your doctor to put things in plain English doesn't mean you're not smart. It means you want to be clear about what your doctor is telling you.

If you're still unsure about something your doctor said during your visit, tell your doctor you would like more time to talk. If your doctor isn't available to help, you should be able to talk to a physician's assistant or a nurse. In some cases, you may want to make another appointment with your doctor so that you're sure you understand everything about your health.

Take information home with you

Doctors have been known to pass along a lot of information to their patients. You may not remember all they tell you so make it easy on yourself. Write down anything your doctor may pass along and take them home with you. It also helps to bring a friend or family member to make sure you know and understand everything your doctor tells you.

While you're at it, ask your doctor for any brochures or other materials that may help you. Your doctor may even give you some websites to find out more.

Follow your doctor's instructions

It's very important that you follow any instructions your doctor gives you during an office visit. If your doctor prescribes medicine, requests a test, or sets up an appointment with a specialist, it's important you do them.

If you get confused or if you forget some information, get in touch with your doctor. We all make mistakes or forget things from time to time.

Your doctor also should be contacted if something isn't working right. For example, if a medicine your doctor prescribed isn't working, or if you haven't received test results that your doctor ordered, let your doctor know.

So, with these simple steps, you can start having a stronger relationship with your doctor. And today, studies are showing that a stronger relationship with your doctor pays off in a healthier life for you.

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