Just had a lovely conversation with Joanne on her wonderful podcast, Fabulous at 50! (and of course beyond)
We discussed my book, Sidelined: How women can navigate a broken healthcare system.
My research for the book revealed one particular statistic that startled me and shocked Joanne when I mentioned it. Did you realize that only 15 percent of women leave their doctor’s office fully understanding what they’ve been told? Think about that: in other words, 85 percent of us don’t completely understand what our doctor tells us and, even worse, hesitate to ask questions in order to clarify what we don’t understand.
That’s why I want to review the seven things you can do to ensure that you get the most effective healthcare when you visit your doctor.
- Bring a written, prioritized list of your symptoms to the visit. It’s important to write down your symptoms and questions to ensure that you tell doctors everything you think they need to know and to be certain that all your questions are answered. So many of us get anxious when we’re in the doctor’s office and, if you’re like me, half of what you want to say flies out the window.
- Once you receive your diagnosis, ask the doctor how they arrived at that conclusion. You might say something like, “I know you must have seen a lot of symptoms like mine, did they all have disease X?” Another question to ask is, “Is there anything else this could possibly be?” You want as much information as you can get so you can research more accurately what you’ve been told.
- Ask the doctor to write down the clinical names of your diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Don’t try to remember them or worse, spell them yourself. If you spell like I do, trying to spell them yourself is a recipe for disaster. That way when you get home, you have the correct information to help you do your research.
- Do your research! Look up the name of your disease. What are its symptoms? What does it look like? What tests are appropriate to undergo—did you have them?— so that you can be sure the diagnosis is accurate. What are common treatment recommendations? The information your get will help you feel more in control and comfortable with your diagnosis.
- Repeat back, in your own words, what you heard your doctors say. That gives you a chance to be sure you understood correctly. It gives them a chance to confirm that you understood what they said and to be sure they said what they meant to say. We all sometimes misspeak and doctors are no exception.
- If you can, take someone with you to the visit. It always helps to have another pair of ears.
- Last but not least: Do NOT bring up a new issue as your doctor begins to leave the office. More than likely, that’s an invitation for a brusque and superficial answer. If you’ve prioritized and prepared your written list carefully, you will have covered everything you need to know.
Hope this helps all of you get the best healthcare you can! Let me know how it goes.