For most people, their doctor is their go-to person for healthcare. However, if you try to contact your doctor’s office, especially if you need to do it quickly, you may find it difficult to get through.
As a patient, it’s not always easy to get in touch with your doctor, especially when you need them. Due to their high demand, physicians are sometimes booked months in advance. You could have to wait for hours or even days even if your doctor welcomes walk-ins. The increased number of patients the doctor has to visit may be the cause of the difficulties in getting in touch with them.
Why It’s Difficult to Contact Your Doctor
There are a number of reasons why it can be difficult to contact your doctor. For one, doctors are often very busy and may not have time to respond to every patient’s phone call or email. Additionally, many hospitals and clinics have strict policies in place regarding patient confidentiality, which can make it difficult for doctors to release information to patients or their families. Finally, some doctors may be reluctant to give out their contact information to patients for fear of being inundated with calls and emails.
Whatever the reason, it can be frustrating for patients and their families when they are unable to get in touch with their doctor.
How to Communicate Effectively with Your Doctor
Patient relationships are difficult to maintain these days in an environment of managed care. Physicians are being held to a standard that is largely unfair—required to see an average of six patients per hour. This rate becomes unsustainable when a doctor is also trying to listen to a patient’s concerns, answer their questions, and provide helpful information about their health. So, patients are wise to come into doctors’ appointments knowing that there are a lot of strains on their healthcare providers’ time.
That being said, there are some ways that patients can make communicating with their physicians more efficient and effective. Here are some tips on how to get your doctor on the phone and how to communicate effectively.
- Find out the best way to get in touch with your doctor. Don’t be scared to establish guidelines for contacting your doctor. Ask them up front what the best method will be to contact them in an emergency. During your initial meeting, individually inquire as to how to get in touch with them.
- Express your concern. It’s important to tell your doctor how much you want to be involved in making decisions, and whether you want in-depth information about all available treatment choices or simply a brief overview.
- Take notes. When you are talking to the doctor, you want to be sure that you explain your symptoms and concerns clearly. It can be helpful to write down your symptoms, medications, allergies, and treatment history beforehand so that you don’t forget anything. This way, you can make sure to cover everything with your doctor and not forget anything important.
- Send information up front, when possible. If you have questions and concerns for your healthcare providers, it could be a good idea to send them those questions in advance. This gives them a better understanding of what will need to be discussed during the appointment and will allow them to research and prepare some information to share on the topic. So, sending a text message or email in advance, letting them know that you want to talk about your medical history, the need for screening, or preventative medicine, for example, could help ensure that your concerns get addressed in the time allotted.
- Be honest and transparent. It is also important to be honest with your doctor. If you are embarrassed about something, remember that they have probably heard it before and are there to help you. They can’t help you if they don’t know what is going on, so be as open and honest as possible. So, be detailed in the notes you take of all symptoms, whether you think they are relevant or not.
- Set expectations about time. When requesting that your doctor call you back, scheduling an appointment, or requesting further information, be specific about the time frame. Let your doctor know that you expect a call back by the end of the day or an answer to your question before the visit with the specialist next week, whatever the case may be.
- Ask your support person to join you. It’s hard for patients to be their own advocates when it comes to health care. That’s why it can be beneficial to ask your spouse, friend, or caregiver to accompany you to important doctor appointments. It never hurts to have an extra pair of eyes and ears when your health is on the line.
- Listening is just as important as speaking. Of course you should ask any question you have, but you also need to listen carefully to the responses. Listen to the physician’s instructions carefully and ask any questions you may have.
- If you are unsure, ask! If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. It may be advantageous to repeat what they’ve said during a visit or follow up on a phone call to make sure you have understood their recommendations.
- Be assertive. Your health is the most essential thing. Don’t be scared to ask your doctor questions, just as you wouldn’t purchase a car without doing your research. Be forceful if your problems are not addressed to your satisfaction. Let your doctor know that you still have questions, and request a new appointment, an extension of the current one, or information about other staff members who can answer your queries.
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