YOU and Your Doctor Are Your Medical Team – August 2022

Your professional relationship with your family doctor / PCP [Primary Care Physician] is an important part of your life. Without being ‘funny’ it will be almost as important as the one you have / had with your spouse / partner. The difference is your doctor will help guide you to make decisions about your health care as he/she has the medical knowledge to do this.  

Selecting a family doctor is a significant decision.  Things to consider in this decision are many.  Two immediate decision to consider: would you feel more comfortable working with a male or female physician, or does it matter to you?  At Lakeside there are many doctors of both genders. Another consideration: if you have a spouse / partner, will you both have the same doctor?

Like any kind of relationship in order for it to work well, good communications are essential. There are several questions to consider / think about when selecting your family doctor, or even evaluating your current doctor: Does the doctor [really] listen and look at you when you speak? Does the doctor respect and value your opinion and input? Does the doctor dismiss your concerns or interrupt you frequently when you are explaining how you feel, etc.? If the doctor is going to give you a ‘shot’ or prescribe a new medication, does he give you information about this medicine? Are you given this important information such as: its name, what is it supposed to do / its purpose, how it works, the dosage & frequency it is to be taken, told the signs that the medicine is working and how long will it take to see any affects, how do you take it [with / without food], how long is it to be taken, and made aware of any possible side effects. Does the doctor ‘welcome’ questions, or act annoyed or too busy, or act like he/she is being ‘challenged’ by you when you ask questions? Do you feel ‘rushed’ when you are with the doctor? Does the doctor answer your questions in terms you can understand? If there are decisions to be made, does the doctor provide options if available, and provide   you with a pro-con opinion discussion about each option? Does the doctor respect your expressed wishes regarding   end-of-life care – use of “aggressive” or non-aggressive treatment of certain medical conditions? Do you trust that the doctor will honor these wishes ‘when the time comes’? Does / will the doctor make a referral to a specialist if the situation is not in his realm of expertise? Will you / do you feel comfortable talking to the doctor about sensitive or personal health issues? If you believe in combining a traditional medicine and a holistic approach when indicated – does the doctor accept this approach? How ‘easy’ is it to get in touch with your doctor? How does the doctor communicate with you after office hours:  – return phone calls? E-mail response to your e-mails?    WhatsApp? How do you reach the doctor in an emergency? Does the doctor have   a ‘back-up’ doctor or ‘plan’ when he is not available – What is it? Does the doctor treat you like a Team Member in your own care?   

Yes, I do realize this is a long list of questions to think about and answer, but the response to each one tells you something about the yet to be, or already established relationship with your family doctor. I am not trying to be melodramatic, but you need to be as informed and involved in your own health care as possible. Think of it this way. Your doctor is the pilot. You have the choice to be the co-pilot involved in your own care, or be a passenger who is just going along for the ride. Maybe a bit of a simplistic parallel, but it represents your involvement in things that affect your life and health. 

If you are searching for a family doctor / PCP talk to your friends whose opinions you value [‘consider the source’] about their doctor experiences, pro or con, with specific details supporting that opinion. Third hand ‘opinions’ or rumors should be dismissed.

I strongly suggest that you make an office visit appointment with the ‘prospective’ doctor while you are healthy. Trying to find a doctor and make a decision about your future family doctor when you are already sick is not the most prudent thing to do. When you are sick, your focus is on how you feel – miserable. When ill you want to make a ‘quick’ decision, which does not allow you the time to do some research about the available doctors in the community to try to make the best ‘match’ for you and your health needs. Having a planned meeting will generally give you a sense about this potential professional relationship in selecting the ‘right doctor’ for you.  Yes, it is like an interview type of thing, but it is an effective screening technique. In my years as a nurse, this is what I have done when I relocated and needed to find a ‘new’ family doctor. I have ‘ruled out’ a few potentials this way – some of these initial ‘interviews’ were quite revealing and not necessarily such ‘funny’ stories. One potential looked at his watch 4 minutes into the office visit – and he was not taking my pulse. Another ‘potential’, after I explained that I was new to the area and that I was looking for a family doctor before I got sick. This doctor told me straight out: “I never heard of anything so stupid in my life” – neither one got my vote. I have found ‘the one’ that matched my health care needs and earned my trust through this “interview” manner. This process is an ‘investment’ of your time in hopefully establishing a long term professional relationship affecting your health care and your life.

Your PCP is your main source for your general health care needs. The PCP’s role has many components, such as: examine you during visits, treat you, refer you to a specialist when medically indicated, coordinate care with other physicians and specialists as needed, educate you about your medical conditions and treatments. He should   provide information about any needed lifestyle changes to prevent future medical complications and possibly developing other medical conditions / diseases. The PCP should keep updated written health records for you on paper or computer [you need to help with this if you are seeing specialist doctors], and provide regular physical exams including height, weight, vision, hearing, and blood pressure checks as well as other tests as needed, etc. And most importantly, your PCP should help you make some of the most important decisions affecting your well-being, health, and your life.

August 2022 Issue

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Jackie Kellum

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