Patrick Withrow, M.D., chief medical officer at Western Baptist, was in private practice 25 years, so he offers a unique perspective. “The bottom line is you should always leave every doctor’s visit feeling a little better than when you arrived,” he said.
You may not leave with a cure or even a diagnosis, but your doctor should have been a good, concerned listener, he said.
C = Communication
A = Accountability
T = Trust
To help you build the best C-A-T relationship, we asked Dr. Withrow five important questions.
Q. How should one choose a doctor?
A. Ask trusted friends or family members for referrals. Find out if the physician is board-certified, meaning he or she has achieved expertise by passing national standards in his or her specialty (for M.D.’s, see http://www.certificationmatters.org/; for D.O.’s, go to “Find a Doctor” at http://www.osteopathic.org/).
Also, evaluate your visits with your physician to make sure you can communicate effectively and comfortably; if you cannot, you can change doctors.
Q. How can you best prepare for your appointment with your doctor?
A. Bring a list of your medications, including dosage. Know the top two or three questions that you must have answered before you leave. And bring your calendar, so you can schedule followup appointments carefully.
Q. How much should you rely on your own research, compared to your doctor’s explanation?
A. Be knowledgeable about your condition. Research on reputable sites, such as http://www.webmd.com/, will help; but realize that it takes the clinical expertise and experience of your doctor to get the best appraisal of your situation. Don’t try to be your own doctor just because you read an online article – there is much more involved in the art of medicine!
Q. What can you do to help your doctor make the proper diagnosis?
A. Be honest! Even if you don’t tell your partner or your minister, be prepared to tell your doctor the truth about your habits – smoking, drinking, eating, sex. If you have four drinks a day, say four – not one! The doctor is not there to judge you. Don’t minimize or magnify your habits or your symptoms. Pay attention to how you feel, and if you notice a change – especially a significant change – tell your doctor, and let him or her decide if it’s a change that should be explored.
Q. Why do you have to wait so long in the doctor’s office?
A. A number of issues, especially unexpected emergencies, can affect your wait. However, if you regularly have to wait longer than you think you should, bring it to your doctor’s attention. Ask if there is something you can do differently – such as scheduling on certain days or calling ahead – to minimize the wait. And, just as with the communication issue, if you can’t resolve the problem to your satisfaction, you may need to consider changing physicians.
What would you like to know to help improve your physician-patient relationship? Post your comments here, and Dr. Withrow will answer.
And, if you’re looking for a doctor, check out the 240 – representing 40 different medical specialities – on staff at Western Baptist.