How to Get the Most of Your Doctor's Appointment
Two members of ENFA have attended European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) patient conference in Sofia, Bulgaria. Patients from all European countries representing any of the 200 musculoskeletal conditions, from arthritis, fibromyalgia to back conditions were working over 4 days with researchers and healthcare professionals and sharing best practice.
ENFA’s representatives said: ‘’It was very empowering seeing patients from all over Europe working in the same direction – to improve healthcare outcomes for people in their countries. The theme of the event was on patients taking control over their care. It means patients’ being informed, active and working together with their doctors in the management of their conditions. This working together with the doctors is called by the medical profession shared-decision making. It means that the patient is being treated on the same level as the doctor, is being appropriately informed and involved in all decision related to his/her care, his/her wishes are being respected and is given a choice. The decisions are being made together by the patient and the doctor.’’.
Here we have written some tips to help you get the most of your doctor’s appointment:
1. Be prepared, do your homework. Research your condition, symptoms, possible treatments and tests in advance of the visit. Libraries are a good source of information and there are books about most conditions. Keeping a diary of your symptoms is another great way of preparation. Request a copy of your previous test results and analyse them prior to your visit.
2. List on a paper all questions, medication, symptoms, including those that you think may be not related and any other relevant information and use this during an appointment. Prepare your arguments for course of action or any tests that you think are needed.
3. Respect and be respected. If you feel that you are not respected or that the doctor doesn’t pay adequate attention to what you are saying, for example, by typing and not looking at you, ask politely him or her to stop doing it, to look at you and to listen.
4. Request all relevant information to be explained to you. You can ask for a print out of information on any medicine the doctor is suggesting you should take. Discuss with the doctor the side effects of any medication or treatment and risks involved.
5. You can ask for other than drug treatments, like physiotherapy, massage, heat therapy, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy. Ask the doctor about any relevant relaxation techniques and treatments or about referral to a specialist or a pain clinic.
6. Remember, you know your body best. If something doesn’t feel right for you, say it, state your reason and ask for a different treatment. A good doctor will take into account your other needs, your lifestyle, your family, work and other commitments. One size doesn’t fit all and if a treatment is good for your neighbour, it doesn’t mean that it will be good for you. A good doctor will see you as a human being with all your needs. Practical and economic issues, like transport, must also be taken into account when discussing treatment options with your doctor.
7. If you need extra support, bring with you a family member or other trusted person.
8. If you disagree with doctor’s decision you can request a second opinion, that is, opinion of another doctor. Use this right every time you feel it is needed.
9. The best relationship between a doctor and a patient is based on trust. Ask to see the same trusted doctor every time.
Ensure that you are really listened to, respected, being explained things, given a choice and that the decisions are being made together by you and your doctor and not being made for you. Take ownership for your own healthcare.