Surveys show that people are pretty unhappy with the state of health care in the United States these days. Insurance is way too expensive and co-pays and cost sharing are out of control, with patients paying the bulk of office visits out of their own pockets. Staffing shortages mean there are fewer people to answer phones and finding a primary care doctor that is open to new patients is darn near impossible in my neck of the woods.
Every physician I know is suffering from overwork and feels under-appreciated. (The reasons are complex and would be a separate article).
Even so, the commitment to patient care and being there for the patient is still at 100%. Physicians really care! We want our patients to have a good experience, feel acknowledged and cared for, and most of all, stay healthy. Here are some ways you can help us help you:
Even if you are feeling good, see your primary care physician at least once a year. This way we can know you, understand your health risks, and trouble shoot when something comes up. Prevention is the key. It is really hard when we haven't seen a patient for several years. Lots can happen in that time and it takes too long to catch up.
Don't ask for new prescriptions by phone or computer messaging. If you need a new prescription, you need to be evaluated. With Telemedicine it can be easier for all of us, but you do need to be seen.
Know your medications. When I see a patient, the most important item for me is knowing what medications they are taking. All of them! Many people have a medication list that is as long as the CVS receipt. Bring it in instead of saying, "The little white pill". It will be my job to make sure you need all of those medications and I always try to eliminate what I can.
Don't lie about how many drinks you have or if you use drugs or smoke or visit escorts. We aren't judging you. Those lifestyle factors are of utmost importance to your health.
If something is really bothering you, don't wait until the end of the visit to bring it up. It really makes it hard, after we've dealt with earwax, your bunions and knee pain to finally be told you've been having chest pain for a week. We do understand fear but try to let us know these symptoms up front.
If you see the doctor with a symptoms or problem, please let us know if it is continuing. We try to diagnose and treat a condition and if I don't hear back after we have tried a remedy, I assume the problem is solved. Yay! If it is continuing I WANT TO KNOW so we can go to plan B. Medicine is not an exact science and new clues can unfold that we need to know about.
If you can't afford a medication or a test or want to know if it's expensive or really needed, do speak up. We don't always know what your costs are as there are over 100 types of insurance products that are all confusing for us too. But we'd rather know and try to work with you, rather than have you not go or not take the medications. Just speak up.
We are your allies in health.