Sunday, July 28, 2013

What your doctor tells you

What your doctor tells you and what s/he means to tell you are often not the same thing.

The most fascinating lessons I've learned have been about what doctors tell you in the office and what they put in their notes.  Sometimes these things are . . . at least similar.  Sometimes they are not.  Not even vaguely.  And I'm not just talking about all the times when they get basic information wrong (my job, my exercise frequency, other medical conditions, allergies, medical history).  I mean like when they tell me: "if PT makes this flare up, we'll do a steroid injection; there's no need for an MRI" and their notes say the next step is definitely an MRI.  (This is one of the reasons it's a good idea to get copies of your medical records every year, though it won't help you in the shorter term.)

I don't think they're being willfully deceptive or anything.  They just have such a limited time with you in the office, and they can't review everything, and they don't always cover everything, and maybe they just don't realize that we patients don't automatically get the benefit of the more thorough notes they write up afterward.  I suspect it never occurs to them that there is a difference.

My recommendation?  A week after the appointment, call and ask to have the doctor's notes from the visit sent to you.  Not all the time, just any time they tell you anything about next steps, medications, treatments, or what they think might be wrong with you.

I have now been to one clinic where they do this automatically. (!!!!)  And when I compliment them for this genius way for them to make sure patients heard what they really meant to say (patient compliance is much easier this way, docs), they tell me, "If we ever forget, just call and remind us."  Needless to say, I am liking this clinic.

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