One of the most amusing revelations I’ve had throughout my years in medicine has come by observing how pushy patients get results…
In my own practice as a Cardiology Specialist and a Diabetes Educator, I’ve always viewed caring for my patients as a partnership.
While I have the medical expertise and knowledge about the human heart and diabetes, the men and women I care for are the #1 experts on their very own individual bodies, personal circumstances, and priorities.
And, our combined perspectives are needed to figure out the best course of treatment.
I often recommend that my colleagues take off their white coats and put on a patient gown in order for them to recognize the importance of patients being active and vocal participants in their own care.
No matter how good your doctors are at their jobs, with today’s complex medical system and rapid advances, there’s no way to know everything and your doctors surely don’t know you as well as you do.
So it’s critical to be assertive:
Speak up, ask questions, and push for the information you and your doctors need to make the right decisions for your health.
That said, there are more and less effective ways to be a “pushy” patient. Remember, you and your doctor are allies in this journey. You’ll get the best care by working together rather than being at odds.
Here are the best recommendations from my very own “pushy patients”.
1. Be the Manager of Your Medical Care
To really experience how pushy patients get results, the first thing you need to do is supply your doctor with valuable information he may not be aware of.
This is particularly important if you’re dealing with a serious illness or multiple health conditions,
In that case, you likely have more than one doctor, have had a number of different tests, and you may be taking multiple medications, increasing the chances that something will fall through the cracks.
- Go to your doctor’s visit armed with that information.
- If you’ve had tests taken since your last visit, ask for and bring the results.
- If that’s not possible, call your doctor’s office in advance of your visit to alert them to the tests, and to make sure the doctor has the report when you meet.
- If it’s your first visit with a doctor, be prepared to provide a list of your current health conditions and the names of the doctors treating you, the tests that have been done, the drugs and dosages you’re on and have taken in the past, and a thorough family medical history.
- If there are any changes as time goes on, make sure to update your doctor about them.
While this may sound like a lot of work, in our imperfect healthcare system, it’s ultimately up to us as patients to make sure our doctors are fully informed. If you don’t feel up to the job, ask a close relative or friend to help you out.
2. The best way to benefit from how pushy patients get results is by Getting The Answers You Need
- Before your doctor visit, think through the questions and concerns you want to raise and write them down in priority order.
There may not be time to discuss everything in one visit, so you want to make sure you at least get to those that are most important.
- It can be helpful to provide your doctor with a copy of your questions at the beginning of the visit so you can go through them together.
It’s not a good idea to start asking your questions as your session is coming to a close, when there may not be enough time to properly address them.
- Take notes during your discussion, especially if the conversation concerns important or complicated treatment decisions.
If you don’t fully understand the answer provided, ask your doctor to explain it in simpler terms.
Consider the fact that there are many great doctors who aren’t great communicators, so you may be able to get better answers from another person on the clinical staff, like a physician assistant or nurse practitioner.
Also, request recommendations on trustworthy and accurate online resources you can consult.
3. What to Be Pushy About
- Don’t be afraid to question a doctor who orders a test that you know you’ve already taken, or who prescribes medications you think haven’t worked well for you in the past.
There may be a good reason for it, but it’s also possible that it was an oversight, and you could save yourself unnecessary procedures and treatments by speaking up.
- If your treatment is not providing adequate relief or you’re having difficult side effects, make sure your doctor is fully aware of these issues and ask for possible changes in treatment or additional therapies that could help.
***If there are no good solutions with available treatments, ask about clinical trials that are testing new therapies. If your doctor is not aware of any, you can look for studies at ClinicalTrials.gov, or contact patient advocacy groups like Breastcancer.org that provide clinical trial information.
- Ask about genetic tests that could help inform your treatment, especially if you’re dealing with cancer. Even if you’ve been tested in the past, there may be newer tests that could provide more precise information.
4. If you have the time, get a second opinion when
faced with a big medical decision.
It’s also critical that you speak up about your personal issues and preferences:
- What’s most important to you in dealing with this medical issue?
- How could individual circumstances affect or interfere with your care?
- What type of doctor-patient relationship works best for you?
All of these factors should be considered when deciding on the right course of treatment.
5. Work as a Team
You and your doctor have the same goal: to make sure you get the best care possible. To do so, it needs to be a team effort.
You should be a “pushy” patient because you have the most at stake.
But it’s also important to work with your doctors, value their opinions, and express gratitude for their commitment to your care.
By wearing the patient gown, many of my colleagues and students have learned that a “thank you” goes a very long way.
And in my own role in their treatment, I thank each of my patients for the honor of taking care of them.