March 30th is designated as National Doctor’s Day. This holiday originated in the 1930s when a doctor’s wife in Georgia organized a luncheon celebration for her husband and colleagues in appreciation for their hard work. March 30th is significant because it marks the day in 1842 that anesthesia was administered for the first time. The holiday was officially signed in to law by President George Bush in 1990.
There are over 700,000 physicians and surgeons providing care to patients throughout the U.S. As President Bush stated in his proclamation, “Common to the experience of each of them, from the specialist in research to the general practitioner, are hard work, stress and sacrifice. All those Americans who serve as licensed physicians have engaged in years of study and training, often at great financial cost. Most endure long and unpredictable hours, and many must cope with the conflicting demands of work and family life.” We wish to share our own thanks to all the doctors who work so hard to help our Aging Wisely clients. We appreciate having quality healthcare providers in our community and being able to work together as patient advocates to ensure the best for our clients.
The pressures of modern medical care create certain realities about the doctor’s visit. As patients and advocates, we can take steps to ensure our doctors are able to provide us the best care possible. Here is some research on doctor’s visits and our “take away” advice:
- One study found the doctor interrupted the patient on average 23 seconds in to him describing his symptoms. In 25% of cases, the doctor did not ask the patient what was bothering him. And, as patients we don’t do very well on our side either. In a Dutch study, about half off patients hadn’t determined what they wanted to discuss before a visit to their family physician and 77% did absolutely nothing to prepare. Patient/advocate take-away: Prepare and put your notes in writing. You need to be organized to ensure you cover your key concerns. Doing a little thinking before the appointment helps you communicate more clearly and allows you and the doctor to cover necessary information in the time allotted. It can really help to make notes as you experience symptoms/in the weeks leading up to the appointment to be able to answer questions about frequency, when symptoms occur, difficulties you have had with following prescribed treatment, etc. Would you make an appointment with an attorney or CPA without thinking about what you wanted to ask or hoped to get out of the visit?
- In another study, doctors spent an average of 1.3 minutes conveying crucial information about the patient’s condition treatment (which they estimated had taken them over 8 minutes) and much of the language used was highly technical. Take-away lesson: take notes, ask follow up questions and feed back what you think you understand to the doctor to clarify. This is also why having a professional patient advocate with you is valuable. The advocate can serve as a liaison to ensure you understand, as well as take notes and talk to you afterwards to ensure understanding and follow-up. If you aren’t clear on something, you advocate can review the instructions with you and contact the doctor if you are having any problems.
- The average wait time (per a 2011 NYTimes article) was 23 minutes and the average time with the doctor was 19 minutes (visits haven’t decreased as much as patients think, but “meaningful time” with patients often has due to various administrative demands). Patient advocacy take-away: Use your wait time constructively. Review your notes and anticipate questions. And, think about comfort ahead of time…don’t show up hungry, bring a bottle of water and maybe some personal entertainment (a book, ipad, knitting) so you don’t have to count on the office’s magazine selection. Try to plan your appointments for times when the office has the least delays (often the first appointment of the day or after lunch).
- The more chronic conditions a patient has, the less satisfied they tend to be with a doctor’s care. This likely has to do with coordination issues. Having multiple conditions (and practitioners) increases complexity for both doctor and patient. Patient advocacy lesson: the role of care coordination is essential for patients with multiple conditions. For many patients, this role is one best done by someone else, whether a family member or professional advocate. Keeping good notes and updated records is essential (an online system such as the Caregivers Touch tool that Aging Wisely uses is especially effective). Doctors often have a bit of a detective role, but don’t make the situation any more mysterious than it needs to be!
Think you could use help with care coordination or advocacy? Want to know more about how we can help your loved one in Tampa Bay get the best care possible? Give us a call at 727-447-5845 to discuss ways we can help.
Aging Wisely was selected as the top “Patient Advocacy Organization” in 2011 by the Professional Patient Advocacy Institute
Our advocates serve clients throughout Tampa Bay, Florida and families all across the world