Should you question your doctor?

A lot of doctors are not really in the healthcare business. What I mean is they don’t really give out prescriptions or advise us on things that really make us healthy. Sometimes, they even prescribe pills and treatments that make us a lot sicker — but unintentionally.

The traditional way of viewing the doctor-patient relationship is one of almost complete automation. Patient gets sick, makes an appointment with doctor, shows up for appointment, doctor examines you, gives a prescription, patient takes prescription, buys the medicine and expects to get well eventually. Period!

This view of the doctor-patient relationship has been going on since medicine men or shamans have been on the planet. However, the “commercial view” of medicine started when things became a bit more “civilized’ or structured – and when a money-based or fee-based kind of relationship appeared.

Present-day society is based on a system of instant gratification and immediate results. Unfortunately, this kind of system also applies to the medical and healthcare industry. Doctors – and patients – have to understand that getting better from sickness doesn’t depend only on a pill or a single treatment; it depends largely also on a “change of lifestyle” and perhaps, a shift in perspective.

That perspective is to look at things differently, to open one’s eyes to the possibilities of a new way of treatment, perhaps a new way of looking at things.

The so-called “alternative treatments” of using all-natural, organic, and plant-based treatments are not something new. It has been used by ancient cultures like the Hindus of India for 4,000 years under a medical system they call “Ayurvedic Medicine”. Does it work? Of course it does!

But let’s get back to US. If the pill or treatment that your current doctor is not working for you, nor does it alleviate the pain and trauma you receive as a cancer patient, perhaps you should question your doctor. Asking questions does not cost us a life; in fact, it clarifies the issue at hand and builds a better rapport with your doctor.

When do we need to change our doctor?

Sometimes, we believe our recovery and survival from debilitating diseases like Cancer, Diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease depends highly on our rapport with our medical doctor. We talk to her/him almost every week, we hang on to her/his every word, and we feel sometimes that our whole life depends on her/his magic advice.

However, medical doctors are only human. They’re imperfect just like us, and so in their imperfection, we as patients are sometimes affected by the shortcomings of our doctor.

Therefore it pays to know when we need to cut our relationship with our doctor and look for another. Here are 9 signs to look for when we need to say goodbye to our doctor:

1. She/He doesn’t give you her /his whole attention.

You came from afar, had to wait your turn after a dozen patients were awaiting your doctor in the waiting room – and she’s still on the phone giving lengthy instructions to her house builders.

Throughout the short conversation with the doctor lasting just a little more than 4 minutes, she keeps on harping about the wonders of chemotherapy while you keep on saying your pain seems to be increasing every day – and that you wanted a more natural, pain-free treatment.

That wasn’t what you expected her to say. Obviously, her mind is only focused on what she is insisting and not on what you are saying. It is an impolite way to treat patients. Better find another doctor who is a better and more empathetic listener.

2. She/He has no concept of time – or your time.

You know the signs – doctor always late, tells her secretary she’s going to be late for 1 hour but you end up waiting for 2 hours. When she arrives, she sees the long line of patients outside, then tells her secretary she has to attend a meeting with the Chief Doctor down at the Oncology Department. Waits another hour. By then you’re famished because you missed your lunch already.

And when you get to have your turn with her, it’s all wrapped up in 3-5 minutes.

Sounds like a familiar story? You bet! It happens in every clinic here in the Philippines. And you’re not even in a queue for charity patients – but even if you are in one it’s no excuse to be late.

Tardy doctors are not on my list. If you live in the provinces, better find one nearby who is good and can give you all her time when it’s your appointment time.

3. You and your doctor don’t jive.

Getting well from a debilitating disease or any disease for that matter means your doctor and you have to work as partners in finding a solution to the problem. You and your doctor don’t need to always see eye to eye on certain things – but you need to agree to an amicable resolution of the problem.

The problem starts when you never get to agree on some of the more vital issues regarding your disease. Or there is a mismatch in work styles and beliefs. Wherein he insists on taking a more conventional approach to the problem and you are more open to trying new things.

Either way, there is a need to separate and go your own ways. Find another doctor.

4. She/He never bothers to keep you fully informed.

Ever met one of those doctors who dishes out recommendations for new treatments and never bothers to explain them to you? Or assumes that you are a walking, comprehensive dictionary of medical terms or a database of the latest, advanced technologies? And never asks if you understood what she just recommended or “why” you need to take this treatment or test and just assumes you will agree to it?

Dear patient, find another doctor who is more compassionate to your needs – and your lack of information on the problem.

5. She/He is utterly condescending.

Since doctors sometimes hold the key to the life and death of some patients, they might think they are the most important people in the world and that everyone must follow them. If you feel that your doctor is condescending to you and never or hardly listens to your suggestions, then better replace them with another one who will treat you right as an individual equal to them.

6. The doctor’s staff are unprofessional.

Your doctor’s secretary or receptionists are your first link between you and your doctor. If they are unprofessional in dealing with you, like they forget to give your message to the doctor during an emergency, or doesn’t give you the courtesy that you are entitled to at the clinic, then better reconsider your choice and find another doctor.

As an aside, if the staff are unprofessional, sometimes it reflects the character of the doctor too ;).

7. You doubt her/his competence or worse, you don’t trust her/him.

Obviously, there must be something that must have happened between you and your doctor to have triggered the mistrust or doubt. But if you can’t share your most intimate details or your greatest fears about your disease with your doctor or you hesitate following her prescribed recommendations more often than not, then it must be time to look elsewhere for help.

8. She/He doesn’t work well with other doctors or caregivers.

Your doctor is the greatest manager of your health and your subsequent recovery from disease. If she is not inclined to coordinate with other doctors on your treatments or even liaise with your caregivers regarding your treatments or alternative therapies, perhaps she shouldn’t be working with you. Seek another doctor who is more compassionate to your needs.

9. Your doctor is unreachable when you need her/him most.

A real requirement for a good doctor is accessibility when emergencies are there. You might be having a heart attack or a terrible mind-numbing pain – but you can’t contact your doctor. She has a voicemail saying to leave a message and she’ll call back soon – but she never does or only after 2-3 hours. Nowadays, technology is so advanced that you can reach your doctor by instant text messages or Skype even on the go. Find one that is easily accessible and is okay to be bothered by the most critical moments of your sickness.

How about you – do you have any other tips or suggestions about replacing your doctor for a better, more empathetic one? Share your ideas in the comments section below!

Image by jennycepeda / CC BY 2.0