4 Tips for a Healthy Relationship With Your Primary Care Doctor
When SCAN primary care physician Dr. Miki Crane sees a new patient, she tells them, “This is a blind date. It’s a chance for us to get to know each other and find out if we can work together.”
Dr. Crane means the kind of first meeting between a doctor and patient that can lead to a lasting and fulfilling partnership focused on your health and happiness. And like the best partnerships, a successful relationship with your doctor—one where you get the best care for you—doesn’t just happen. A healthy doctor-patient relationship takes trust, honesty and open communication. Here are four tips from two of SCAN’s doctors on how to have a healthy relationship with your doctor.
How to Have a Healthy Relationship With Your Doctor Tip #1: Be open and honest with your primary care doctor and expect them to be the same.
“You should be able to trust that your primary care doctor has your best interests in mind,” says Dr. Ifedayo Kuye, a SCAN medical director and internal medicine physician. “And your doctor should be able to trust that you are open and honest, and that you share all relevant information that may be important to your care.”
How to Have a Healthy Relationship With Your Doctor Tip #2: Let your doctor know what matters to you in your life.
You probably already know your primary care doctor expects to hear about new symptoms, reactions to medications and updates on how you’re managing a health condition. But did you know your primary care doctor also wants—and needs—to hear about other areas of your life that matter to you?
“It’s important for your doctor to have a sense of your life outside your office visit,” says SCAN’s Dr. Kuye. “What brings you joy and happiness? Is it going to church, playing with your grandkids, exercising?”
Knowing what you enjoy in life helps your primary care doctor provide care that can make a difference to your health, says Dr. Kuye. “When your doctor knows what’s important to you, they can make recommendations that work best for you and your health.”
Dr. Kuye remembers wondering why a patient of his who had heart issues always wanted to talk most about her knee pain. But then Dr. Kuye learned that one of the woman’s great joys was going to church services—and the ache in her knees was keeping her from it.
“In my mind, her heart issues were a priority. To her, the pain in her knees mattered more because it was reducing the quality of her life,” Dr. Kuye says. Once he realized what mattered most to his patient, he worked to help the woman reduce her knee pain. And she came to trust the other care Dr. Kuye was recommending.
How to Have a Healthy Relationship With Your Doctor Tip #3: Make the most of your doctor’s appointments by coming prepared, asking questions and taking notes of what you and your doctor discuss.
- Prep for your visit by bringing the following to your next appointment with your primary care doctor:
- A list of questions and concerns about your health that you want to discuss with your doctor, in order of how important they are to you.
- A list of all the medications you’re taking, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter remedies and supplements. Don’t forget medications you stopped taking and the reason why.
- Health tracking logs, such as of those that note blood sugar levels, diet or blood pressure readings.
- Notes from any visits you’ve had with other doctors or healthcare providers, including specialists and urgent care. And don’t forget to bring any test results you have questions about, too.
- Arrive 15 minutes before your doctor’s appointment to take care of everything that needs to happen before your visit, like checking your vitals, so you have more time with your doctor.
- Make sure you understand what your doctor says—and that they understood what you have to say. Dr. Crane repeats what she hears back to her SCAN patients, saying, “This is what I’m hearing; is that right?” The same goes for making sure you understand what your primary care doctor tells you. You might say, “Just to be sure I heard you right….”
- Take notes. But if it’s hard for you to write down the important points from your visit, ask someone you trust to come with you. They can jot down key information discussed during your time with your doctor.
How to Have a Healthy Relationship With Your Doctor Tip #4: Contact your primary care doctor when you have a question or concern about your health between office visits.
“Your doctor is more available than you may think,” says Dr. Kuye. If you have questions or concerns between your doctor’s appointments, you can call the office, send an email or use your medical group’s patient portal to send a secure message.
Here’s another tip for a good relationship with your doctor from SCAN’s Dr. Crane: Get to know the nurse or medical assistant in your doctor’s primary care office; they can be good people to turn to for advice or help getting in touch with your doctor when you have a question or concern about your care or your health.
If you have don’t have a Medicare Advantage plan, take a look at the comprehensive coverage, award-winning service, and extensive network of caring physicians, offered by SCAN Health Plan.