Last week I took a small detour from my three-part series on improving the doctor-patient relationship, so this week is my third and final installment in this series. The first two entries focused on full disclosure (being honest with your doctor), and following through with the doctor’s advice and prescribed course of action. This entry focuses on the importance of following-up with your medical professional after trying a medication or other treatment option.
This final tip for enhancing the patient-doctor relationship is probably the most often overlooked. Too often we, as the patient, expect our physician to follow up with us. In fact, the situation is frequently reversed, and it is, in fact, our responsibility to follow up with our physician. Even after we have had a wonderful office visit, or series of visits, and practiced the rule of full discloser, and even after we have followed through with the course of our treatment option(s), it is still important that we let our doctor know about our progress.
When a doctor prescribes treatment and then never hears back from the patient, they may assume that the treatment worked perfectly. In fact, in many of those cases, the patient may have stopped treatment for a variety of reasons. The patient may decide to see a different doctor, or just “go back to life as usual”, forgoing treatment all together. The patient-perspective and the doctor-perspective about the efficacy of a particular treatment option are therefore vastly different. Before you decide to stop any treatment, it is often worthwhile to return to your original doctor with your concerns. After talking to your doctor, you may find that a treatment isn’t working because of a miscommunication in the proper method (for example, with pelvic floor exercises). If your body truly isn’t responding to a treatment option, then the doctor may be able to prescribe a different treatment. In any event, it is important for your physician to know if a prescribed treatment didn’t work out.
Sometimes it is necessary to change doctors due to convenience, a move, change in insurance, or being dissatisfied with a doctor’s bedside manner. Whatever your reasons for changing physicians, it is important for you to communicate your decision and reasons to the original doctor – an easy way to do this is by mailing a letter. Make sure you include in the letter a note about how you are progressing with the treatment (and don’t forget rule number one of full disclosure: be honest about how strictly you are following the treatment regimen!).
In health care, more than any other field, the old adage that others can only help you as much as you’re willing to help yourself is so very true. The three rules I’ve outlined here can really be boiled down to one word: honesty. Start with honesty, follow up with honesty, and finish with honesty. It seems like a pretty basic policy, and yet it can be challenging to follow – especially with something as personal and intimate as incontinence. Alas, honesty truly is the best policy.
Published On: February 22, 2007