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Doctor-Patient Communication

The Importance of Doctor-Patient Communication


Updated April 26, 2014

This Is Just Too Embarrassing!

Have a problem that you feel ashamed to discuss? I'm going to let you in on a little secret. You are not the first person to face this issue and your doctor will not be shocked or upset with you for mentioning it. Remember, your doctor is there to help. There's no reason you have to suffer in silence with sexual dysfunction or any other embarrassing problem you may have. The solution may be quite simple compared to how difficult the problem may feel. To get your best care, you must be honest. Also, keep in mind that doctors have an ethical obligation to keep your case confidential. If you just can't bring yourself to say something, however, try these tips:

  • If you don't feel comfortable talking aloud about the problem, write it down. How you communicate the problem is not as important as if you communicate it.
  • Don't put off talking about it. Bring it up at the beginning of the session and get it out of the way first thing.
  • Talk to the nurse ahead of time. Sometimes patients feel less intimidated by a nurse or other office personnel. The nurse can then bring up your problem to the doctor allowing him to broach the subject with you in a less threatening manner.
  • Remember that your doctor is just another human being like yourself. Having an advanced degree does not mean that he is immune to the same conditions that you yourself are experiencing. My first psychiatrist got into the field of psychiatry because he was suffering from panic attacks during medical school.

But They Just Won't Listen!

Let's say you've done all your homework, but your doctor interrupts you or says not to worry and dismisses your concerns? You just don't feel like you're being heard. What should you do?

At this point, it's very important to remember that you are paying for a service. You are the customer and you deserve to have your needs dealt with. Speak calmly, but assertively. Let your doctor know that you value his time, but you do not feel confident that your questions have been addressed. Then ask your questions again politely and don't back down until you feel satisfied that you have been answered. Avoid taking a confrontational stance, but do make certain that you are really being listened to. In all likelihood, this will be enough. Oftentimes, doctors become accustomed to making decisions for patients because most patients are used to turning all the decision making power over to their physicians. A patient who wants to become involved in his own treatment is a novelty. If, however, you simply are not getting the service that you desire don't be afraid to seek out another doctor. Your health and well-being are at stake. You deserve to get the service you are paying for.

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