I Don’t Think My Provider Is Listening To Me–What Can I Do?
In a recent review of social media groups designed to help patients with diabetes, I have observed some posts about patients and caregivers feeling as though they are not being “heard” by their healthcare providers, and not knowing how to communicate with them.
Over my more than two decades of healthcare workforce experience, I have learned four very basic but very key things to consider when working with your providers to get appropriate and effective care. These suggestions are as follows:
Document everything. When you take meds, what you eat, and all your symptoms with specific dates and times. Be very specific in your words when documenting. For example, do not just write down “I had a headache”. Rather, specifically state where the pain is and what type of pain it is, and how long it lasted. Do not simply say “upset stomach”, but rather say specifically what the discomfort is–are you nauseated, or vomiting, or having bowel trouble. Vagueness in describing what you are feeling/doing does not lend well to getting them to listen seriously.
With any research you have found indicating a treatment path to pursue, make sure the research is from a peer-reviewed clinical journal. Print it out and bring it with you to your appointment or email it through your patient portal. Be sure to tell the providers’ receptionist or nurse that you would like the provider to review said papers before they come in the room with you.
If you suspect the provider will want blood tests, or you are requesting certain tests to be run, ask the office to get you the orders the week or two before your appointment so they are complete and results are available during your visit. You should be able to sit with the provider and go over the results without having to schedule extra appointments or just wait for a phone call.
Understand that unfortunately many providers have an ego. They think “I’m the one that went to school, I’m the one with the license, therefore I have the say”. Make it known that you respect their time and busy schedule. Iterate to them when you are in front of them that you also respect their knowledge and training but they need to respect that you know your body best and you are looking for solutions rather than excuses and trying to put your trust in their ability to help you find said solutions.
Some additional food for thought:
- If you are a healthcare professional yourself, go ahead and tell your provider and staff upfront so they know you’ve gone to a little school yourself and while you respect their license level, you know a little something, too.
- If they want you to do something or they disagree with something you are asking about/requesting, ask them, in these specific words, “what is your clinical rationale for wanting to make this diagnostic/treatment decision”. Ask them to explain their reasoning as this will help you and them understand your situation more thoroughly and help improve both sides of communication to ensure you receive appropriate care.