Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Doctor, Doctor!

Thanks for your contributions to the list of Great Docs! Glad to see that there are some good guys (and gals) out there to choose from. A good doctor/patient relationship is so important when you're trying to get (and keep) Lupus under control. In my opinion, it's impossible to successfully manage your disease without one!

While the goal of the Great Docs! list on this blog is to provide you with resources for fabulous health care, it's important to note that the doctor/patient relationship is a subjective one. Every doctor out there isn't a perfect match for every patient. Should you decide to follow up on a referral - make an appointment, bring an open mind and then determine for yourself if the doctor is a good match for you.

On the subject of whether or not a doctor is right for you, here's a little snippet from my book, Despite Lupus: How to live well with a Chronic Illness, due out this spring:

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Doctors are Real People, too.

Just like you and me, your doctor is only human. He has strengths and weaknesses, assets and imperfections. He’s going to have good days and bad days and because you see him as frequently as you do, you’re bound to catch him on one of each. Your doctor should conduct himself with the utmost professionalism (even on his worst day). But it’s unrealistic to expect him to overhaul his behavior simply to meet your own personal expectations. You may want more small talk and less business, a shoulder to cry on instead of a composed, unemotional handshake, or more supportive encouragement and less brutal honesty. Just because that’s what you want doesn’t mean your doctor is responsible for giving it to you. In fact, he may be incapable of relating to you in that way. If that is the case, you may need to learn to accept your doctor for his expertise and his failings, or switch doctors.

All relationships require some amount of effort, but the payoff should undoubtedly equal the energy you’re putting forth. If you spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make peace with your doctor or if the differences between the two of you are interfering with the effectiveness of your medical treatment, it may be time to switch physicians. It doesn’t matter how many shining referrals, write-ups, or reviews your doctor has to his name. You should never settle for substandard, dissatisfying or unsettling care. The most important evaluation is the one you give him, and if you’re not happy with the results, you’re entitled to try someone else. Use these questions to help you pinpoint what it is that isn’t working in your current relationship:

What are your greatest needs from a physician?
What are your expectations?
Have you brought them to his/her attention?
Is your current doctor capable or incapable of meeting those needs and expectations?
Could you help him or her do so in a more effective way than you currently are?
What are your personality strengths and weaknesses?
How might they complement or clash with those of your physician?

NOTE: Before making the big decision to leave your doctor and move on to a new one, be sure to check out my tips on how to make your doctor/patient relationship (and your appointments) more effective. You might be able to salvage the relationship you currently have, saving you a lot of time, money and hassle! Check out tips #1, #2 and #3 here and look for tips #4 and #5 in the near future!

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