The Hippocratic Oath may state “do no harm,” but for many patients, that mantra does not seem to extend into the waiting room.
“I think people kind of have the feeling that doctors don’t value our time as much as theirs, and that they double-book a lot of appointments,” said El Pasoan Erin Villareal. “Most of the time I think people feel like just another number.”
Many physicians must strike a delicate balance between providing high-quality patient care and the demands of running a medical practice. Patients are under increasing stresses of understanding the ever-changing landscape of medical technologies and the limits of their insurance plans – if they are fortunate enough to have one. This has left both patients and providers frustrated with certain aspects of the healthcare system.
There are ways, however, to make the process of seeing a doctor more pleasant and effective for all parties involved.
“It’s really a team effort, with both the doctor and patient there with the goal of making the patient feel better,” said El Paso nephrologist Dr. German Hernandez. “I can tell you from my experience the things that make the visits inefficient or not as satisfying for both the provider and the patient are when there’s incomplete information.”
Dr. Aime Serna, Internal Medicine, agrees.
“Bring your medicines, or your list of medicines already prepared,” she said. “Always bring a list of any past treatments you have had. Keep track of preventative maintenance such as mammograms, colonoscopies and pap smears. Where were they done and in what year?”
Another issue that sometimes prevents a successful office visit is lack of effective communication between patient and provider.
“A lot of times the patient comes in with one major goal in mind,” said Dr. Hernandez, “and the doctor usually has one major goal in mind. The two may not be the same. So it’s important from the outset of the visit to make sure that (the goal is) stated.”
Doing so prevents the patient from ending the visit with an important question that may not be answerable in the minimal time remaining, leaving both the patient and the doctor feeling unsatisfied with the visit, he said.
Preparation is not only key for adult patients, but for pediatric patients as well. Pediatrician Dr. Rana Kronfol reiterated the importance of keeping track of medications and being unafraid to ask questions, but also emphasized unique issues that may crop up in the treatment of children.
“I just think it’s important to trust in your physician and know that they are going to address (everything),” she said. “A lot of times we pick up a lot nonverbally rather than verbally. We’ll walk into a room and note the development before we even examine the (child). Sometimes things are being done when it doesn’t look like they are being done.”
“Sometimes it is not the primary caregiver that is coming into the office with the patient,” she continued. “Sometimes that person doesn’t really know everything, so if the primary person is not able to come in, it would be helpful for them to write down everything. That way, we’re not having to call them and do a speakerphone interview.”
Every physician’s office functions in a different way, and patients have to be proactive in figuring out how to get the most from their visits, including finding out whether or not they can come before their visit to fill out paperwork or how their lab results will be communicated, Dr. Serna said.
“I always tell patients not to be afraid to ask questions,” she said. “I can’t solve a problem I don’t know you have.”