I hope that you know a wonderful doctor. The type who listens wholly, respects you, validates your concerns and opinions, and goes above and beyond to make sure you get the care you need.
I personally know more than one who I trust completely and who has moved me to tears with their compassion and dedication.
There are also physicians out there who would rather save face than admit when they are lacking in expertise in a certain area.
There are physicians who are consistently dismissive and don’t listen to their patients out of skepticism or biases.
There are physicians who expect patient signatures without caring if their patients truly understand what they are consenting to.
As a result, there are patients whose care is inadequate, who are misdiagnosed or stuck with sub par treatment plans, who have consented to procedures without being aware of risks or have consented to voluntary opt-ins under the impression they had no choice if they wanted to receive treatment.
This undesirable patient-physician dynamic can be difficult to break.
Patients can quickly feel belittled; discouraged from voicing their concerns and asking questions. In their efforts to respect their physician, they may end up relinquishing some of their autonomy in order to be compliant. It’s normal to have some white-coat intimidation and not know how to overcome it.
How can this change?
Knowledge is power: You don’t have to go to medical school to gain some confidence in your specific condition and treatment options. We are in the age of the internet and while it’s very important to check your sources to avoid misinformation, there is a lot you can learn to help you better understand your playing field and help you have better conversations with your physician and advocate for yourself.
Prepare for appointments: Have a list of questions, ranked in importance, ready to go. Keep track of side effects or symptoms leading up to the appointment. Remind yourself you shouldn’t feel rushed or pressured to sign anything before you’re able to comprehend what it’s about.
Bring a buddy: A family member or friend can provide support at an appointment when you might be emotional or nervous. They can help remind you of questions you wanted to ask, read through forms, and stand up for you, politely, if they see your concerns aren’t being addressed.
Find a different doctor. If your physician isn’t listening you, isn’t willing to work with you to explore options, or refer you to someone who could help, it may be time for a change. Switching doctors isn’t always easy, but you may find much better care elsewhere and you certainly deserve that. Make your co-pays more worthwhile, am I right? If you already have a diagnosis, you can reach out to others in your community to ask for recommendations for your care, and some advocacy foundations will have lists of recommended physicians by state.