Boosting Communication Between Doctors While Having a Chronic Illness

Patient Expert
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Did you know that having psoriasis puts you at risk for 10 other possible diseases? So you may have to see more than one doctor, which increases the potential for miscommunication between your physicians.

But why is miscommunication a problem? In an article about physician-to-physician communication, Diane Shannon, M.D., breaks down the issue:

“Physicians are paid for doing more procedures and seeing more patients,” she writes. “They tend to speed up and just don’t feel that they have the time to spend communicating about patient care.”

So where does that leave YOU as the patient?

Sonya F. has had psoriasis for two decades and has been in contact with multiple doctors. She was first diagnosed as having eczema and allergies by a primary care physician.

“It wasn’t until my early 20s that I saw a dermatologist and was diagnosed with plaque psoriasis,” she writes in a blog. After using a treatment for over a year, Sonya had routine lab work done to ensure the medicine wasn’t affecting her body negatively.

This is when her dermatologist told her that her liver enzymes were elevated, and she was instructed to call her primary care physician (PCP). She did as instructed but the primary care physician had not received lab work nor were they aware of the treatment Sonya was on.

I’ve experienced this back and forth between doctors myself. I developed an infection from a medicine I was using and like Sonya, I was told to contact my PCP. I was then responsible for telling my new doctor what was going on. This became a somewhat frustrating experience and I felt that a lot was lost in translation.

Whose responsibility is it to ensure there is no communication breakdown between doctors? Ultimately, you need to be your best own patient advocate. Here are some tips to make communication between your doctors a bit smoother:

Use doctors within the same hospital network

If you must see multiple doctors, make sure to pick those who work within the same hospital network if you can. This will ensure that the offices use the same system for medical files and can easily access your information to review lab work and test.

Request referrals

If a doctor suggest you see a different doctor, ask he/she for an exact name of a doctor they recommend. A lot of medical professionals have colleagues in a variety of fields and can connect you with someone they know opposed to you attempting to find a doctor yourself.

Request for a notification be sent to the new doctor

A study found that “69.3 [percent] of PCPs reported that they ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’ send the specialist notification of a patient’s history.” Be sure that your doctor’s office is not a part of that 30 percent that does not send notification. Before you leave your appointment make this request, and follow up with the doctor they referred you to by phone.

As always, if you aren’t satisfied with the process, speak up! Many doctors have review boards online and some provide surveys at the end of your doctor visit. Take advantage of those moments and say how you feel. The only way this process can be improved is by patients like us speaking up.

Take notes

As your doctor is telling you what additional steps you need to take, be sure to take notes and recite the information back to him/her to ensure you are clear on what needs to be done and what information to provide your other doctors or new doctors.

Request a print-out of details

Some doctor offices can give you a diagnosis print-out, which you can take and provide to the next doctor. This print-out should outline diagnosis and test results.

See more helpful articles:

Best Tips for Communicating with Your Doctor when You have Psoriasis

Which Psoriasis Treatment Option is Right for You? (INFOGRAPHIC)

How Patients Can Get Involved With Psoriasis Research