We often get questions and comments such as “My doctor told me to take this medication. I took it for two weeks and it’s not working. What should I do?” The answer is always “Go back to see your doctor.”
Most people don’t like to go back to their doctors and tell them the treatment isn’t working. The problem though is that this is based on the idea that doctors are able to evaluate and diagnose a patient correctly 100% of the time. There are many reasons why this is not true.
1) Doctors don’t know everything. – Years ago there was a lot less for the family doctor to know. We didn’t have all of the testing options and there weren’t as many possible options. Primary care doctors are trained to recognize the most common diagnoses and to treat them. “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Specialists are more the masters of one but will often focus only on one.
2) Patients often leave out important information – Did you tell your doctor about that new herbal supplement you are trying? Did you mention that you have reflux? Did you tell her about your Dad’s medical history? These are all important pieces of your diagnosis.
3) The treatment is part of the diagnosis – Many patients don’t realize that the treatment is part of the diagnosis. For example, you go in complaining of chest pain. Your doctor does an EKG, maybe does some blood work, asks some questions and gives you a diagnosis of reflux. You take the medication as prescribed. Then there are two possible outcomes:
a. You feel better! – Great! That confirms your doctor’s diagnosis. This doesn’t mean however that it’s all said and done. You may need to go back to get your medication adjusted or changed to give you the best overall outcome.
b. You don’t feel better. – This is good information for your doctor. It tells him that either he needs to dig further into the cause of your symptoms or that perhaps he needs to try a different medication or treatment for the same diagnosis. Or he may want you to go to a specialist if he’s not sure what’s going on.
4) Patients sometimes don’t follow the doctor’s advice – If your doctor gives you a medication to take to treat your problem and you don’t take it as prescribed then you really don’t know if it worked or not.
5) Different doctors have different experiences – this kind of goes with number 1. I am a pediatric physical therapist with three kids who had reflux. I go into every home thinking about reflux as a possible cause of sleeping issues, feeding issues, irritability, etc. On the other hand, one of the Occupational therapists I work with is always thinking about sensory issues. Our experiences and patients we work with help mold our clinical practice. Same thing happens with doctors. By my third refluxer, my pediatrician had a lot more information and experience about reflux. So, in some ways – my kids helped other kids at her practice.
So, what does this mean for you? It means – don’t be afraid to go back to your doctor and tell her it’s not working or that it’s working but there are side effects that are causing you issues or that it’s working but not well enough. This helps your doctor tweak your diagnosis and treatment plan and when you think about it might help the next person that comes in too. You are part of the team of people that helps keep you healthy and feeling good – feel free to participate fully in that team!
Published On: May 25, 2011