Surveys show that people are pretty unhappy with the state of health care in the United States these days. Insurance is way too expensive, and co-pays and cost-sharing are out of control, with patients paying the bulk of office visits out of their own pockets. Staffing shortages mean fewer people answer phones, and finding a primary care doctor open to new patients is darn near impossible in my neck of the woods.
Every physician I know is suffering from overwork and feels under-appreciated. (The reasons are complex and would be a separate article.)
Even so, the commitment to patient care and being there for the patient is still at 100 percent. Physicians really care! We want our patients to have a good experience, feel acknowledged and cared for, and stay healthy. Here are some ways you can help us help you:
Even if you are feeling good, see your primary care physician at least once a year. This way, we can know you, understand your health risks, and troubleshoot when something arises. Prevention is the key. It is really hard when we haven’t seen a patient for several years. Lots can happen in that time, and it takes too long to catch up.
Don’t ask for new prescriptions by phone or computer messaging. If you need a new prescription, you need to be evaluated. With telemedicine, it can be easier for all of us, but you do need to be seen.
Know your medications. When I see a patient, the most important item for me is knowing what medications they are taking. All of them! Many people have a medication list that is as long as the CVS receipt. Bring it in instead of saying, “The little white pill.” It will be my job to ensure you need all those medications, and I always try to eliminate what I can.
Don’t lie about how many drinks you have if you use drugs, smoke, or visit escorts. We aren’t judging you. Those lifestyle factors are of utmost importance to your health.
If something is really bothering you, don’t wait until the end of the visit to bring it up. After we’ve dealt with earwax, your bunions, and knee pain, it really makes it hard to finally be told you’ve been having chest pain for a week. We do understand fear but try to let us know these symptoms upfront.
If you see the doctor with symptoms or problems, please let us know if it continues. We try to diagnose and treat a condition, and if I don’t hear back after we have tried a remedy, I assume the problem is solved. Yay! I want to know if it is continuing so we can go to plan B. Medicine is not an exact science, and new clues can unfold that we need to know about.
Do speak up if you can’t afford medication or a test or want to know if it’s expensive or really needed. We don’t always know what your costs are as there are over 100 types of insurance products that are all confusing for us too. But we’d rather know and try to work with you rather than have you not go or not take the medications. Just speak up.
We are your allies in health.