Conversation With Your Doc May Be The Best—And Most Elusive—Medicine

When doctors and patients communicate well, research shows that patients are more likely to follow treatments, recover more quickly and are less likely to be the victims of medical errors.But with an average office visit of just 18 minutes and an increasingly complex variety of diagnostic and therapeutic options, good communication may be modern medicine’s final frontier.
In this podcast, sponsored by ConnectiCare, Dr. Juan Estrada, medical director of Sanitas Medical Centers and Lisa Freeman, director of  the Conn. Center for Patient Safety, provide tips on how to communicate with your doctor.A recent patient survey by ConnectiCare found that patients generally rated communication with their doctors highly, but there were concerning gaps. Less than a third of members surveyed asked about the cost of a prescription or test ordered by their doctor.

“Dealing with the administrative side of health care is hard, so we try to take care of that for you,” said Dr. Juan Estrada, medical director of Sanitas Medical Centers, a health care company that started in South America and now has clinics in Newington and Bridgeport.  Each facility has a ConnectiCare representative on site so that patients can find out what their out-of-pocket cost would be for a proposed treatment.

The ConnectiCare survey also found that patients over 60 were significantly more likely to bring lists of medications and questions to an office visit. Women were more likely than men to be satisfied with the time spent on the visit and doctors’ willingness to answer questions, though overall satisfaction was high for both genders.

“I think patients are going through a very difficult transition right now, where we’re moving the curriculum in nursing schools,” said Lisa Freeman, executive director of the Connecticut Center for Patient Safety. “We’re moving the curriculum for physicians. But we’re not teaching patients how to be patients.”

Dr. Juan Estrada

Coming prepared for appointments and feeling free to ask questions can prevent medical errors and lead to better outcomes, she said.  She recommends online videos with tutorials on how to ask questions and tell your story to your doctor.

Building a good relationship with a primary care provider who knows your history will lead to better communication, Estrada said. “It’s not as easy because, unfortunately, the market has driven us to … types of medicine where everyone wants to be a specialized doctor,” he said.

Online ratings can help you find a good match in a primary care provider, Freeman said, but ultimately the best screening tool may be family and friends who have similar values to yours and can report on their in-office experience.

Getting Ready For Your Doctor’s Visit:

Prepare a list of your concerns before the appointment and share it with the doctor as soon as the visit begins.

• Bring your medications with you. The actual pill bottle will allow your doctor to see the dosage and the reason it was prescribed.

• Compile a list of hospitalizations or other major medical events, with dates.

• Do whatever it takes to get the information you need clearly. That might include bringing a friend to the visit, making a recording on your cell phone or asking your doctor to repeat or rephrase things.

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