Most doctors went into the practice of medicine so that they could build strong emotional bonds with patients and guide them through health challenges. In fact, 79% of doctors consider "patient relationships" to be the most satisfying thing about their work, according to a 2014 Physicians Foundation survey.
One day, your primary care physician (or PCP) may become the most important person in your life. How's your current relationship with your PCP? Is he or she someone who can coach you through health milestones, help you achieve your wellness goals, and guide you through treacherous medical problems?
Here are 3 tips to building a strong relationship with a new primary care physician, or improving the bond with your current one:
1. Know what’s important to you in a physician.
Start by taking out a piece of paper and writing down what you want in a PCP. If you're looking for a new doctor, be sure this is someone with whom you will have good interpersonal chemistry, that they're committed to your well-being, and that their office is well organized. Maybe you also need a doctor who's close by, who is of a certain gender, or who has certain qualifications? Write down the factors that matter most to you.
If you already like your current PCP, how does he match up with what you wrote down? Above all, be sure this is someone you have complete trust in and feel comfortable sharing your medical problems. Even if your current PCP doesn’t meet all the criteria on your list, that doesn’t necessarily mean he's not a good fit for you. You have the power to judge whether or not your doctor is a keeper. (For tips on identifying and interviewing PCPs, see The Patient's Playbook, Chapter 2: "How to Find the Best Primary Care Physician for You.")
2. Get your doctor familiar with your health history.
Help your doctors to get to know you better by collecting your medical records, writing down your family's health history, and sharing this information with every new physician you meet.
In The Patient's Playbook, an entire chapter is devoted to teaching everyone how to collect their own medical data. Your medical information is invaluable to your physicians. It holds the clues that can help them to detect and diagnose conditions earlier.
Your physicians will be so pleased, and they will treat you differently, when you come in armed with facts and figures about yourself—the very information they need to give you the best care possible. (Need help gathering your data? See our Helpful Tools for advice and free downloads.)
3. Ask the right questions to build rapport and get on the road to better health.
It seems like doctors have less time than ever before, and it can be hard to get them to pay close attention. To maximize the time you have together, write down your health questions beforehand. Review our list of the 7 Must-Ask Questions for your next PCP visit, and supplement them with your own. And if your physician can't get to every question on your list in person, ask to schedule a follow-up phone call.
Truth is, the majority of doctors really do enjoy getting to know their patients and helping them to get the best possible health outcomes. And engaged patients who ask the right questions and share the most pertinent information about their own medical data are a doctor's best partner.
So take the time to forge a strong relationship with a PCP who you trust to help you achieve your wellness goals. It may become one of the most important partnerships—with lifelong benefits—that you take part in.
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