Doctors’ Orders: 7 Tips They Wished Their Patients Followed

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Patients often gripe about having to wait too long or not getting enough of the doctor's time, but we aren't the only ones with complaints. A recent survey of 660 primary-care doctors came up with seven things doctors wished their patients knew - and did.

If you’ve ever skipped a medication or forgotten advice from your doctor, there’s a good chance the doctor wishes you wouldn’t have.

After polling 660 primary-care doctors nationwide, the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that these are among the top complaints when it comes to patients.

The survey results – which Consumer Reports says “help create a road map toward a more productive relationship” with your doctor – reveal a list of tips that primary-care doctors want you to know…

1. Doctors desire a commitment

The most important step doctors said patients could take to get better care is to establish a long-term relationship with their primary-care doctor – 76 percent of doctors said this would help “very much.”

“A primary-care doctor should be your partner in overall health, not just someone you go to for minor problems or a referral to specialty care,” said Kevin Grumbach, a medical doctor and professor at the University of California at San Francisco.

2. Respect is a two-way street

Simply be respectful and courteous to the doctor…

  • 61 percent of doctors said it would help “very much.”
  • 70 percent said that since they had started practicing medicine, respect and appreciation from patients had gotten “a little” or “much” worse.

Of course, showing some R-E-S-P-E-C-T doesn’t have to mean being a passive patient…

  • Most doctors said that it was “somewhat” or “very” helpful for patients to ask them questions during their visits and even to sometimes question the doctor’s recommendations.
  • Only 4 percent said doing so wouldn’t be helpful.

3. Please take your medicine

The biggest gripe of 660 doctors? “Noncompliance with advice or treatment recommendations,” the study found.

  • Most doctors said noncompliance affected their ability to provide optimal care.
  • 37 percent said it did so “a lot.”

So what exactly would the doctor order? “Feel free to discuss, even debate, your doctor’s treatment plan while you’re still in the office. Then do your best to comply,” the study advises. “If you’re having side effects, are unsure whether you’re following instructions properly, or experience new or recurrent symptoms, tell your doctor immediately.”

4. Pain is tough to treat

When it comes to pain, it turns out that doctors are harder on themselves than their patients are. Although 79 percent of patients said that their doctor effectively minimized their pain or discomfort…

  • Only 37 percent of doctors said they considered themselves “very” effective.
  • Only 60 percent said they considered themselves “somewhat” effective.

“For patients with chronic conditions, medical science can’t necessarily take away all of their suffering,” said Ronald Epstein, a medical doctor and director at New York’s University of Rochester Medical Center. “If you have a chronic condition, the important thing is to find a doctor who listens and involves you in decision making.”

5. It helps to keep track yourself

Earlier this month, Money Talks News interviewed experts who suggested that patients keep track of their own medical history and even bring an extra set of ears to doctor visits, and this study just goes to show exactly how many doctors agree.

  • 89 percent of doctors said that keeping an informal log of treatments, drugs, changes in condition, notes from previous doctor visits, and tests and procedures could be helpful (while only 33 percent of patients do so on a regular basis).
  • 80 percent of doctors said that bringing a friend or relative to your visit could be beneficial (while only 28 percent of patients actually do).

6. Research online, but carefully

While 61 percent of patients report reading up on their medical conditions online, doctors aren’t so convinced that online research is a good idea.

  • Almost half of doctors said it helps very little or not at all.
  • Only 8 percent said it was very helpful.

Of course, that doesn’t mean patients should stop. Instead, we should be more wary of which sites we use. Rather than use a general search engine, the survey suggests going directly to trusted sources, such as government websites…

The survey also suggests high-quality academic treatment centers’ websites…

7. Doctors are pressed for time. Don’t make it worse.

Doctors cited insurance paperwork as the biggest obstacle to optimal care.

  • Most doctors said insurance red tape interfered with the care they provided.
  • 42 percent said it did so “a lot.”

So, what’s a patient to do about this necessary evil? “To get the most out of your time, plan ahead,” the study recommends. “Jot down a list of questions or concerns you’d like to address during your appointment, and prioritize them so you get to the most important ones first.” For more tips to plan ahead, be sure to also read 6 Tips to Save Time and Money at the Doctor’s Office.

You might also be interested in two other recent stories:  Health Care Without Insurance – $50/Month? and Health Care Without Insurance – Medi-Share

Stacy Johnson

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