This month we are raising awareness around Diabetes prevention. The November issue is packed with information and tips that can help lower your risk of Diabetes. Many of our readers have a family history of Diabetes and are searching for ways to reduce their risk. Besides eating healthier and committing to embracing a whole-body health approach of living, there is something else that might help in making a difference.
Recent research shows a good doctor-patient relationship can improve health outcomes, so it’s worth investing in the effort to determine how your connection with your doctor stacks up.
It’s easy to focus on the basics when evaluating credentials of your doctor: Did he/she go to a good medical school? Does she/he have a good reputation with colleagues and patients? Are they in my insurance plan’s network? These are all important questions.
But there’s another equally important one— and somewhat a tangible factor to consider: Will the two of you be able to build a relationship that works to keep you healthy?
In other words, strong communication is a clinically proven way of getting the most out of a trip to the doctor’s office. It goes a long way in helping you manage your wellness.
What should your relationship look and feel like?
Defining the roles
Your primary health provider role is to give you information on how your mind and body are functioning. They can order appropriate tests or assess information and give you key recommendations, treatments, as well as education.
Your role is to share truthfully and give the clearest picture of your circumstances to your healthcare provider. You should also feel comfortable in asking questions if you have an honest relationship with your provider. In other words be engaged in communication–but your most important role is to be the driver of your self-care.
You play a crucial part in what direction your healthcare takes. Furthermore your beliefs, values and your lifestyle are important elements that you bring to the relationship. So share as much as you can and help in crafting a plan for you that enables you to win at the battle of fighting off illnesses. Incorporate your expertise as an informed patient with that of your doctor’s expertise and together lay out a plan that you can follow wholeheartedly.
Only then you have a formula for success. When you’re in a great doctor-patient relationship, you just know it. “You feel as if you’re working as a team—you’re partners in your health care,” says Judy Cook, M.D., a longtime patient advocate and the author of To Die or Not to Die: Ten Tricks to Getting Better Medical Care
Does your relationship feel like this?
Doctor superiority and patient dependency
Communicate and become an empowered patient
One 2012 study showed that—even among a well educated and affluent older population—patients are afraid of being labeled as “difficult” if they attempt to participate in their own medical care. Not only that, but they view their doctor as an authority to whom they must defer, no questions asked. That’s not exactly the picture of a positive doctor-patient relationship, is it? And I probably don’t have to explain why this is such a big problem.
It’s natural to experience some degree of fear in the face of “authority,” and while all the extensive education and clinical experience equip doctors to make medical judgments that you may not be able to doesn’t mean that they’re infallible. Or that every statement or suggestion they issue is always the right one for you. So activate your patient power and work hand in hand with your provider.
Patient activation is defined by patient behaviors, such as being knowledgeable about one’s health and health care and having the skills and confidence to engage in self-management of chronic conditions.
Now, self-management does require knowledge about your health status in order to make informed decisions about care. And There are a lot of resources you can tap to gain a fuller understanding of what may be best for you.
Health coaches, whole health educators and patient advocates are new health professionals that are there to help you make informed decisions and take steps in the right direction.
Think of it like this–you only visit your doctor once or twice a year when you aren’t well. So who is in charge of your health the remaining 363 days a year? You are.
Studies show that the average time a doctor spends with you is about 15 minutes per session. Realistically your physician may not be able to address all of your concerns and questions. They usually are able to offer limited health-related information that may be valuable. But in those minutes you can do your part to make the visit count. So be prepared when you visit your doctor. Remember the more you share about your vision for your health and wellness, which may include alternative and integrative approaches gives more information to draw.
And that can lead to a better road map to your wellness. If you just don’t feel comfortable or your doctor doesn’t make you feel comfortable in your new role, it might be time to find another doctor. It has been shown that a caring doctor helps the doctor patient relationship and also adds to better health outcomes.
According to a 2014 analysis of 13 clinical studies, a positive doctor-patient relationship can have statistically significant effects on “hard health outcomes,” including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, asthma, pulmonary infections and osteoarthritis pain. The research, published in the online journal PLOS One, looked at studies where doctors were randomly assigned either to provide their normal methods of care or to take additional training or steps to provide more empathetic and patient-focused care. And that additional care made a measurable difference.
As an informed patient and the driver of your self-care you can and should seek further support from health educators and coaches. Some of their services can be covered by insurance or flex health spending accounts. Over time your relationship with your doctor can evolve from one way communication into a two-way discussion. Then from there a real partnership can emerge.
You are worth it!
Next issue we will share how to expand your health team to reflect a whole health approach and integrative medicine.
If you need support in becoming a more informed patient or interested in activating your patient power schedule a consultation with Dr. Stukes.