All health professionals want you to have as positive an experience from your contact with them as possible. People who are informed about their health conditions and who are involved in decision making are more likely to comply with a health plan or regime and are also more satisfied with decisions that are made.
The way general medicine is practiced is changing. While its more understanding of the clients perspective and journey, it’s becoming more collaborative and inclusive of a wider range of health professionals. Increasingly sole practitioners are joining with other doctors/GPs and associated health related services to create health hubs. Many practices have set up processes to determine how urgent your situation is, who is best to see you at various times in your health journey, whether investigations such as blood test results, x-rays etc. are needed prior to your visit, so that when they meet with you, they are more informed and prepared.
You can also help by being well prepared.
- Have a member of your family/whanau or a friend as support if you feel comfortable with them hearing and/or being part of the conversation. Two sets of ears are usually better for remembering what was discussed.
- If you’re having problems at home, are under financial pressure, have housing problems, managing addictions etc. then you may not be in the best place to take on or follow through on what the doctor is telling you. Health professional need to take these into account when working with you, so tell the doctor, social worker or practice nurse at the beginning of the consultation if issues like these are concerning you.
- Advise the practice (if you are visiting) if you have cold or flu like symptoms.
Write down and take a list with you of:
- your symptoms and how long you've had them,
- any medication you are currently taking (prescribed or otherwise), noting the dose and how often you take it, or bring the bottles (Your medication might be different to what your doctor believes you are talking.),
- any questions you want to ask (its easy to forget them once you’re in the room).
During the consultation:
- If your doctor/GP does not already know about your medical and family history, tell them. It is important information for them to know about.
- Be truthful about your symptoms, any changes with other conditions and what’s going on for you. You might feel embarrassed, ashamed, frightened or nervous, etc., however, remember the doctor is a professional; you can talk in confidence. (It’s likely too that they have heard it all before. Knowing this can help you distance yourself from those feelings that might hold you back.)
- Tell them also what you know, suspect, or have found out about your condition. (Some people are very informed about their condition/s before they walk in the door.) Doctors/GPs understand that you may have googled the symptoms and landed on a diagnosis which may of course, be wrong. Most doctors/GPs will appreciate that you want to be a participant in your care and will listen to what you say and then add their expertise and knowledge. This way you can work together more effectively. By better understanding your condition and possible treatment choices you’re more likely to feel in charge of your health and satisfied with the outcome.
- If you don’t think you have been understood properly repeat it until you believe you have been heard.
- Before you agree to any service or treatment you should always be informed about your condition, tests, and treatments etc. that might be needed and the pros and cons of any options.
- Let the doctor/GP know if you’re unhappy with any part of the consultation including any advice or treatment.
- Ask for a recap of what’s been discussed and/or decided so that you’re clear about what you need to do or what’s going to happen next, (if anything). Get clarification if necessary.
- Ask the practice manager to note any important religious or cultural beliefs you have.
- Ask whether the practice provides access to a patient portal and if so, how you can access it. The patient portal gives you secure online access to view your own health information, increasing your ability to manage your own health care.
- Telehealth or virtual consultations may be options for some people and some practices. If this type of consultation would work well for you, make enquiries.
- Some doctors/GP or their associates, have gained additional expertise in specific areas e.g., diabetes management. If you believe their specialty applies to you or you would like to consult them, make further enquiries.
- Remember doctors aren’t perfect. Like the rest of us they may need time to get things right for you.
- If you are dissatisfied with your doctors/GPs advice or treatment you can ask for a second opinion.