In a November 15, 2010 article published in the New York Times Health section
, Jackson Ramer, a professor of psychology at Georgia Southern University states that “more and more patients report that they do not feel heard.”
It is surprising that it has taken so many decades for issues, such as physicians not listening to their patients, to come to light, be discussed and addressed. For those of us who have spent many years in medicine and health care, the fact that patients have not been listened to is nothing new.
There are many reasons that health professionals often do not have the time to go into greater depth with their patients to discuss contributing factors affecting their chronic disease state. However, the patient – more appropriately referred to these days as the consumer, has the ability to ask the important questions pertaining to their health condition and ask what they can do to take greater control over it.
In 1977, the National Institute of Whole Health (NIWH) was established and has, since that time, worked tirelessly to create a transformation in medical health care practice by creating a post-professional training for health care providers focused on changing the relationship between provider and patient, transforming that relationship from patient dependency to patient empowerment.
Through the program, practitioners can learn to shift the communication and control of the patient-provider relationship to express a greater equality and increased participation of the patient.
In 2005, the NIWH model became the mandate for “the practice of medicine in all settings”. Both the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO) and hospitals and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) identified these key guidelines which include:
• placing patients at the center of their health care decision making
• treating the patient as a whole person
• evidenced-based health education for prevention and disease management
Today, the landscape of medical practice is changing because health care consumers are demanding it. We all want to be seen and treated as a whole person. As a health care consumer, it is your right to ask the important questions of your physician and health care givers. It is their responsibility to respond to your questions and provide you with answers. If they do not have the answers, they can direct you to someone who does.
Before visiting your doctor you may wish to consider:
1) Writing down questions you may have about your condition.
2) If your doctor doesn’t have time to answer all of them, ask to speak to a patient advocate or health educator who does have the time to talk with you.
3) Bring along another person to your consultation. They can ask questions for you, be an objective observer and even take notes.
4) Do some research on the topic your self. Daily Strength and WebMD are excellent resources for health information that will give you more of an even footing in the doctor’s office.
5) Remember that YOU are the consumer and treat your medical care as you would any other service you would pay for – because you do pay for this service with both co-pays and insurance premiums.
It is important to develop a partnership with your medical professionals and work together to bring about the best outcome. Asking the questions that provide you clarity, understanding and options is one very important way of insuring that outcome.
What has your experience at the doctor been?
- Dr. Georgianna Donadio