6 Things Doctors Wish Their Patients Knew

doctor with patient

Even the most conscientious patients don’t always do everything they can to maintain their health. Read on for six things your doctor wishes you knew about lifestyle habits that can boost your longevity along with some smart ways to partner with your doctor to get the best care possible.

1. You are the master of your health. No one can control a traumatic accident or a family history of cancer. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 40% of premature deaths before age 80 could be prevented by healthier eating, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and reducing injury risks such as alcohol and drug misuse. The fact is all the medicine and newest technologies in the world can’t compensate for an unhealthy lifestyle. Making healthy choices helps keep sickness at bay and helps maintain your energy and vitality for decades to come.

2. Show up 15 minutes early. Your doctor is scheduled for every minute of every day. So when one patient is late, it throws off the schedule for everyone else. Your doctor prioritizes patients who are on time so being late only means you’ll wait even longer.

3. Caring for your health continues long after you’ve left my office. Last week during dinner, my husband, who is also a doctor, took a call from a radiologist to discuss the results of a patient’s MRI. Similar calls happen on vacation, on holidays and late at night. Patient care today is increasingly complex. Reviewing your health records and having conversations with other doctors is often done long after office hours are over. We’re dedicated to providing you with the best health care possible, so we make time elsewhere in our lives. Want to help your doctor do his or her job even better? Bring a list of your current medications and any recent tests you’ve had from another doctor. That reserves more time for discussing questions and any health issues while helping you consider your best options for treatment.

4. Take notes. You may need to take in a lot of information, make some decisions and receive several things to follow up on, whether it’s calling a specialist to make an appointment or picking up a prescription that’s been called into your pharmacy. Keeping track of these things can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not feeling your best. Take notes. You’ll find it enormously helpful when you’re standing in the elevator on your way home, trying to keep straight what was discussed and what you need to do next.

5. Tell me if you’re not going to follow my advice or take what I’m prescribing. Doing so spares us both the time discussing something you won’t do and allows me to give you a different option or ease your concerns about my recommendation. When it comes right down to it, the best treatment plan is the one you will actually follow.

6. If you didn’t follow my recommendations, don’t tell me you did. I had one patient who would swear she was taking her blood thinner as directed. Yet some days her blood-thinning levels would be sky-high while others they were practically nil. As a result, we were constantly making adjustments, trying different medication types and drawing blood, to figure out how to get her medication at the right level. Then her son accompanied her on one of her visits. When I asked about her taking the blood thinner medication, he told me she never took it except sometimes two or three days before her next appointment when she’d take way over the prescribed amount. If my patient had just told me this, it could have spared her countless blood draws, medication adjustments and trips to the pharmacy—not to mention the expense and possible dangerous effects on her health.

Bottom line? You and your doctor are a team.  Please, take these things to heart and help your doctor help you!