…once that special physician has been found
by Dr. Bill Rawls
Julie told us how to find the ideal doctor in an earlier post. Now that you’ve found that wonderful, compassionate physician, how do you keep the relationship going? Dr. Rawls tells you how, Enjoy!
Every patient wants one, but good soul doctors are few and far between.
The reason is that there are few rewards for being one and lots of pressures to keep doctors from becoming one.
I know. I tried to be that kind of doctor to every patient for my entire medical career, but being a soul doctor can be extremely taxing on even the most dedicated doctors.
The biggest part of the problem is that the healthcare system isn’t designed to encourage doctors to spend time with patients — in fact, it does the exact opposite.
The sad truth is that the system penalizes your doctor for spending extra time with you. Instead, your doctor is merely incentivized to do things to you.
Reimbursements to doctors are based on procedures — diagnostic procedures to define a diagnosis and then treatment procedures once the diagnosis is defined. A medical consult is considered a procedure, but it’s the lowest reimbursed of any procedure. In other words, the system is built around promoting technology and drug therapy, not compassion and wisdom. As such, doctors are trained as technicians, not healers, in order to support themselves and those who support patients at their practice.
As a patient, if you feel like a cog on an assembly line, it’s because that’s how the medical machine works.
What little time that is left over during a visit with a doctor is consumed by electronic record keeping, which is now required of all public and private healthcare providers by government mandate. The result is that some doctors are spending more time entering data at their laptops than paying attention to the patient.
This negatively affects an already fragile doctor-patient relationship. Many patients come in with high expectations and, understandably, just want to feel better, faster. Even those who are willing to take the long road to healing often find their commitment rewarded with an overtaxed staff and doctors who care, but are pushed into a corner when it comes to treatments and time. Many doctors get frustrated that they don’t have all of the answers or aren’t helping patients feel better in a timely manner.
Doctors want you to feel well just as much as you do, but these obstacles are often too much to overcome. The end result is a hugely dysfunctional and expensive system in which no one is happy — doctors, staff and patients alike.
What You Can Do To Encourage a Great Doctor-Patient Relationship
If you happen upon a doctor who is warm, compassionate, and understanding of your situation, you’ve found your soul doctor — don’t let them go! Here’s a list of things that you can do to make your soul doctor/patient relationship flourish:
- Try not to walk into your provider’s office with a list of twenty concerns that you want addressed during that visit. Be very specific about the goal you want to achieve during that visit and make it reasonable. Remember, it may take multiple visits to accomplish your overall goals.
- Understand that the medical system has limited your time. Our current healthcare system is designed around strict time limitations. Your provider only has about 15 minutes (30 minutes at the most) for each patient they are going to see that day.
- Realize that the more complex and unusual your situation is, the more time it will take for your provider’s staff to sort it into the electronic medical record system. This is a normal activity for the doctor’s staff, but it still takes a while to be sorted out.. Sadly, that’s time away from direct contact with you.
- Be organized. This is one of the most important tips you can heed, especially if you want the most out of each visit. Have your information readily available. This includes previous lab results and/or personal observations that may be helpful in achieving the goal of the visit. It’s also helpful to keep a symptom journal for your personal reference, just to keep track of how you’re feeling. That way, you can give your doctor a concise overview of your health in a short amount of time.
- Accept that your provider may only be able to recommend drugs and possibly surgical procedures. Your provider’s knowledge and training generally does not extend beyond conventional therapies. This may be less true of an integrative provider, but be mindful — that same medical system based on doing procedures applies to that doctor, too.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If something isn’t clear, make sure you ask about it before you move forward, always. Your concerns are important.
- Recognize the possibility that you may actually know more about your condition than your doctor. Especially when it comes to conditions like Lyme disease or fibromyalgia. In the end, your doctor may be limited to a certain specialty, or is so overbooked that they only deal with common ailments. Give them an overview of your condition or offer to send them more information on it. This gives you the opportunity to share this journey with your doctor and will help to give them a new perspective to compare to their current knowledge. It’s a win-win.
- Be proactive about your recovery and remember that you always have the last say. You can research information about any drug or lab test on the Internet before you consent to taking it. Many doctors know less about the long-term side effects of the drugs they prescribe than they should. Also, many doctors take a “shotgun” approach to ordering labs with little regard to cost or whether results will influence outcome. Be aware that you have choices.
- If you want more personalized attention from a provider, you will likely have to go outside what your health insurance will cover. Physicians who offer personalized attention typically do not accept insurance and charge upwards of $300 per visit. Another option is choosing a concierge physician. Concierge physicians limit the number of patients they see in a day to allow more time with each patient. They may take insurance, but require a yearly fee of hundreds to thousands of dollars.
- If you want a personal touch without the price, consider a health coach. Health coaches are not trained in medical therapies, but they do have the compassion and time that is sorely missing in the healthcare system. Their training is focused on helping you create a healing environment to allow your body to heal. This is often more important than anything else you can do to overcome chronic illness.
Whether you’ve found your soul doctor or are paving your own way, I hope you find solutions that fulfill your individual needs. Each path to healing is different and it should be meaningful for you.