How to meet your doctor and receive your diagnosis in a better way

Yesterday, I went with my friend to meet his new nephrologist and receive an unwanted diagnosis.  I went with my friend because I have a unique skill set at meeting new doctors and healthcare providers and dealing with unfamiliar health situations. I know this routine.

I know after awhile any diagnosis at all, no matter how awful or serious, becomes a rhythm. I’ve done this as a patient and I’ve done it as a caregiver.

Like many people, my friend heard the initial news, “We have a follow up we’d like with a nephrologist” and his imagination went overboard. Afterwards he said to me: “I just want to know I’m doing this right.”

People say there isn’t a right or wrong way to do illness. But I will say this — there is a better or less than stellar way to meet your doctors. And there is a better way to go about getting a diagnosis (not receiving it, just getting it). And there is a better way to give patients the news. And there is a better way to do relationships in general.

Here is my insight on how to meet your doctor and receive your diagnosis in a better way:

  • Before you meet the specialist, have a list of questions and concerns.
  • When in the shark-infested waters of the Internet, swim at your own risk. My friend searched online for questions he might have before his initial visit. He and his girlfriend made a list of questions for his nephrologist.  I’m fairly neutral about seeking information online. I’ve met amazing people online and found valuable healthcare resources. I’ve also met people with negative agendas and who take more than they give. I used to tell people that .org was the best place to find value-free information but I no longer believe this. Anyone can set up a .org. That said, some patient and doctor chat groups are incredibly helpful.  Choose wisely and try not to contribute to the garbage.
  • Have your list of prescriptions spelled correctly with proper dosages.
  • Have a list of your primary care doctors and all specialists with contact information
  • Know your pharmacy and the proper contact information to send new prescriptions.
  • When filling out patient forms you have your information ready.  I have a three page list and it contains all my medication, physicians, pharmacist, allergies, surgeries, and emergency contacts.
  • Have a trusted friend or family member come when you get your diagnosis or meet a new doctor. I went with my friend. I knew his history. I’m calm and impartial.  I listened and took notes. I also asked the doctor questions that my friend forgot.  When we were through I asked them both if it was helpful having me there and they both said, “Yes!” When you are going to get a new diagnosis — bring someone supportive.

Melissa Travis blogs at Living With Lupus- But Dying of Everything Else.

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  • Melissa Travis

    Hello – great question. Thanks for commenting on my patient article. I’m not an MD. I’m a patient too.

    I’ve disagreed with my physicians often and regularly. But I have amazing relationships with them because at my core I TRUST THEM. I’m not trying to stump them and I know they have my best interest at heart.

    To answer your question from only MY perspective – this is why I pay my doctors: they are experts the way I am. We’ve become a team and build trust over time. Sometimes our meetings are very short. And – I don’t try to fit everything in – I often give them ONE problem I’m having at a time and let them know one or two bit of information I’ve read. And yes- if you are very smart and research a great deal it can be handy — but that means you might need to self-edit and bring them only the best bits. That way you can help use your time wisely. This is VERY important to you and your family if you have a chronic or terminal illness and NEED your physicians to stay alive and live well.

    Good luck!

    • rbthe4th2

      I’m glad you have had that. I’ve had some docs that, well to be honest, said ‘trust me’ and they didn’t deliver. It was ‘trust them’ because they didn’t know what they were doing. I would have expected a midcareer surgeon to recognize a bad gallbladder, skin issues to need zinc levels checked (didn’t happen), and when I keep telling you there’s a problem and only because they get mad at me, do a urine test (it was more accurate) and my levels were almost 50% lower than cut off. Meaning VERY low. Or not test at all. Its hard to develop a relationship with a doc when they blow you off, call you mental, and then you get tests results showing there was a problem.
      On top of all that, no one wants to simply say I’m sorry. Except for 2 of my docs. Those I trust. They’ve not done things like the above though either.

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