02.Being a better patient
Doctors' frustration with certain behaviours or habits of patients can affect the quality of health care the patient gets.
Disregarding lifestyle advice
Doctors advise that many health complaints can be treated or reduced by making lifestyle changes: eating better or less food, exercising regularly, stopping smoking and getting enough sleep.
Many patients don’t follow this sensible advice and can be unwilling to make lifestyle changes, preferring instead to take a pill – and some doctors acquiesce.
Sometimes the patient doesn't know where to start. Broad advice to eat less and exercise more could be supplemented with a referral to specialists such as an Accredited Practising Dietitian or exercise physiologist – perhaps even a psychologist. And this: "Having an overweight, unhealthy looking doctor lecturing me about my lifestyle is a bit rich".
It’s now becoming increasingly common for patients to begin the consultation with a demand for a prescription medicine they’ve researched themselves, rather than seek their doctor’s expert opinion for a diagnosis and treatment recommendation. It’s usually better to leave medical advice to your doctor than the internet.
“It’s good when patients do their own research, but I hate it when they just demand a particular medicine without asking my opinion as to whether that's the best option.”
If a medicine doesn’t agree with you, don’t just stop taking it – tell your doctor, as there may have been a dosage error or the side effects may be otherwise avoidable. Side effects may also be important and noteworthy in terms of the medicine’s safety profile, and should be officially recorded on adverse events databases.
“Nothing worth mentioning…”
Patients often don’t mention taking herbal medicines, either because they’re “natural” and therefore don’t count as drugs, or because they’re worried the doctor will show contempt. But herbal medicines are not always safe for people with certain conditions, and may not be safe when taken in conjunction with certain prescription medicines.
Patients argue that until doctors show more respect for alternative therapies, they’re unlikely to be more forthcoming.
Procrastinating before going to the doctor means valuable treatment time has been lost and the patient has suffered. Other patients may be embarrassed about coming to the point and skirt around the key issue, leaving their doctor unsure what’s really going on. Finally, there are the “doorknobbers” who spend the appointment chatting about matters of little significance, and just as they’re leaving, with their hand on the doorknob, will say “oh, and by the way…” – and out comes the main concern.
Not to mention patients who compile over the months a list of maladies and requests for tests and referrals, and save it all for one bonanza appointment – for which they’ve been allocated the standard timeslot. If you have a lot to talk about, make a longer consultation, or better still, several.