Smart Woman: Making Your Doctor Listen To You

Tuesday, August 10th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

When your doctor asks what ails you, talk fast. On average, doctors listen to patients' concerns for about 20 seconds before redirecting the conversation. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, only one out of four patients is given the chance to voice their concerns fully. In most cases, the doctor jumped right in after the patient stated their first problem. Only 20 per cent of patients volunteered more information after they were interrupted.

Why Patients Don't Express Problems

25 per cent say they are afraid of bad news, 17 per cent say they don't have enough time and 15 per cent are too embarrassed to speak up. Overall, people feel intimidated by their doctor.

Know Your Body

Treat a doctor's visit as a job interview. Go prepared.
 Write down the facts about your health problem.
 How do you feel? Describe how often you feel the pain, what brings it on and how long it lasts.
 Where is the pain? Be specific.
 When did the pain first begin?
 What relieves it and what aggravates it?
 Is there a family history of it?

Ask Questions

It's up to the patient to interrupt if something isn't clear. When you're given a prescription or advice that sounds unnecessary or too expensive, tell your doctor you need time to think about it. If you decide to follow the treatment, make sure you understand what it is for and why you are taking it.

Time's Up

If you're unhappy with your doctor, say why. No doctor is perfect. Balance the physician's strengths and weaknesses. However, most experts say it's time to look elsewhere if your doctor:
 Puts you down.
 Shows no interest in your problems.
 Blocks your attempts to communicate.
 Ignores psychological and social causes of illnesses.
 Doesn't show good medical judgment.

For more information, contact:
Steve Rutledge, M.D.
Children's Hospital Los Angeles
4650 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 669-2306