You know the old saying, “When you assume something, you often make an ass out of you and me? In my world, assumptions are bad. Ever notice that I discuss my findings and plans with you and then give you a written summary of my findings and plans?
I can’t afford to assume that you understand me. I can’t afford to assume that you will remember what I said. If I assume that you and I are on the same page and we are not, it can lead to catastrophe. If you do not understand what your doctor is telling you, stop him/her and ask more questions. If you do not say anything, the natural assumption is that you’ve got it! If your doctor does not give you a written summary of the visit, ask for one. The written summary of your office visit is one of the few benefits of the electronic medical record.
Ever notice that I repeat what you say to my nurse and to me? Often, I will read my nurse’s note to you and ask if it is accurate. Do not assume that what you say is what your doc heard. Communications between individuals is often lacking. One of my favorite quotes is, “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
During your visit with the doctor, both parties should take the time to make sure they are on the same page. One way to assure better communications is to plan for your visit in advance. Write down the questions you need answered and the points you want to make in advance. Once you have your list, prioritize your needs as the doc may not have time to address all of your concerns at one visit.
Do not assume that your doctor has all the answers. Your doctor’s job is not to know everything; his/her job is to know what he/she doesn’t know and how to find the answer. Do not assume that there is always an answer to your problem. There are problems that have no answer. There are problems that have no solution.
The true art of medicine is in listening, communicating, and finding a way to deal with those problems. In today’s world, everyone is in a hurry. No one is willing to pay for time and no one is willing to wait. The number one complaint about my practice is wait time. I’ve always been perplexed by that complaint because the walk-in system means you will be seen on the day you need to be seen, not on the day an appointment is available. Yes, patients often wait an hour or two in my lobby or exam room. It takes time to listen, more time to communicate, and even more time to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
Help me help you! Prepare for your visit in advance. Stop me if you think I’m not getting your meaning. Stop me if you are not getting my meaning. Make sure you get a written visit summary before leaving. Actually, read that summary and make sure you understand it. Read this blog. It is designed to teach you to help take care of yourself. Send this blog to your friends and relatives. You may save a life.