What Doctors Wish Their Patients Knew – Talking to Patients

We’ve all had similar thoughts about our patients – I bet they didn’t finish their antibiotics like they were instructed. Did they get that information from Wikipedia? If they don’t remember their last appointment, why should I? The importance of taking their medication, reading credible resources and taking notes at appointments are just a few examples of what doctors wish their patients knew. Let’s face it. We could go on and on about the thing we wish our patients understood. But, for the sake of time, here are five examples of what doctors wish their patients knew and tips for talking to patients about these subjects.

What Doctors Wish Their Patients Knew: Five Things

A confused female doctor holding a clipboard as an example of what doctors wish their patients knew

Here are five things you probably wish your patients knew…

Why your time is limited…

There’s nothing worse than walking into a patient room and knowing that they’re super irritated you kept them waiting. They probably imagine that you were checking your Facebook, eating lunch or fixing your hair. Who knows? The reality of it is you’re bogged down with paperwork, some patients take longer than expected and sometimes you go hours without a bathroom break.

That they need to take their medicine

If you give patients antibiotics and instructions on how to take them, you can only hope that they follow directions. If someone has an infection that they want to go away, it’s critical that they take the antibiotics all the way to the end. Many patients tend to stop taking medication as soon as they start feeling better, and this typically leads to their ailment coming back.

If they’re going to do online research, use credible sources

It’s easy to panic about symptoms, do a quick search on the internet and find scary information to heighten your anxiety. However, it’s important to know which online resources are most credible before you go assuming the worst-case scenario because the internet said so. We all have that patient who’s done online research and self-diagnosed. We even have those that refuse to believe our diagnosis if it doesn’t match what they read online.  This is probably where patients and doctors disagree the most. While most patients look up their symptoms online, the majority of doctors in one survey revealed that they think patient research is not helpful.

They need to keep track of their medical records, too

Patients should keep track of what you tell them. They should know what their diagnosis is and be able to remember for the next appointment. They should also keep track of what tests, vaccines or bloodwork they’ve had. Patients who don’t recall the care they received or conversations from one appointment to the next are very hard to treat effectively.

You want to get to know them

When you’re late to patient appointments, ask them the same questions repeatedly and you’re staring at their chart for reminders, patients assume that you don’t remember them. They might also think that since you’re a locum tenens doctor, you’re not as invested in their health. Although it is difficult to know all of your patients on a personal level, what doctors wish their patients knew is that they do want to get to know them on a more personal level. Having a better patient-physician relationship improves preventive care and is best case scenario for all parties involved.

Tips for Talking to Patients About What Doctors Wish Their Patients Knew

A doctor and patient chatting about what doctors wish their patients knew

So how can doctors help patients understand what doctors wish their patients knew? Here are five tips for talking to your patients about these subjects.

1.     Be sure to look at patient charts

If you’re going to be late to the appointment, be sure to look over patient charts. There’s no real way to explain to patients why they may have been kept waiting without making excuses However, you can ease this irritation by showing up knowing what’s going on. If you walk in late and you don’t know who they are or why they’re there, this won’t encourage a strong patient-physician relationship.

2.     Provide tips for prescription pill management

Simply telling patients how and when to take medication sometimes isn’t enough. Some patients need to know exactly why this is so important. Make sure you explain dosage instructions and remind patients they can always ask their pharmacist if they think of additional questions once they get to the pharmacy. Encourage them to have a prescription pill management plan in mind, like to take the pill every day after breakfast and dinner. Having a routine will help them to remember to take their medication.

3.     Suggest credible sources for symptom checkers

If a patient constantly refers to their own research, feel free to ask them what online sources they’re using. If they’re not ones you think are credible, suggest others to them. Telling them where you research your own symptoms or those of your children (let’s face it, you don’t know everything) will hopefully inspire them to use those resources too.

4.     Provide online access to medical records

You might not have the ability to impact this, but hopefully, the hospital or practice you’re working in lets patients access their medical records online. If where you’re working has this feature, remind patients to use it! This way they can see their charts too and you can both be on the same page.

5.     Ask questions to get to know them as a person

Although there’s not much time for small talk, a little bit goes a long way. If you remember that they were going on vacation last time you saw them, ask how it was. Ask them how their weekend was, or if they have any special plans for the summer. Asking about something that they’re excited to talk about will often make them more comfortable talking about more embarrassing things. They’ll also feel like you care.

Do you have other examples of what doctors wish their patients knew or how to talk to patients better? Share with us in the comments below!

Author: Lenay Ruhl

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