My primary care doc’s medical technician came in to take my vital signs, “I’m Frank. I’m new to Dr. Z’s team.” “Hi, I’m Danny,” I replied. “Dr. Z’s on my health team. Welcome to the team.” Big smile from Frank, “Hmm, I never heard that one before.”
My PCP and neurologist get a kick out of me and my engagement in my health. I get the feeling I’m unusual, but I’ve never asked. We have a relationship and a communication style that works for us. But what if it doesn’t?
I write and speak often about our health team. Belonging to your health team 12/1/13, Access to your health team – asynchronous communication 3/16/14, Secretary General of your health team 1/31/16, and Service Agreements for me and my health team 4/2/17. Claire Sachs wrote a great post in her Patient Advocate’s Chronicle, How to Choose a Provider.
During an interactive video cast I gave last week on ZubiaLive, someone asked, “I can’t change doctors. How do I improve the relationship with my current doctor?” Good question! I think you need to ask for more time in an appointment with the goal to improve the relationship.
Prepare for the health team appointment with your care partner
First, make a list of what you’ll agree to do. Think of items like I’ll follow your recommendations when I understand them. I’ll come to appointments with written questions. Next, list something you’d like the doctor to do. For example, Please commit to answering my questions. (see Service Agreements blog post). Finally, list something you’d like to resolve. Such as the best way to contact each other between appointments, in an emergency or when one has a question or status report.
If at all possible, bring your care partner to the appointment. Start with, “I’d like us to work better as a team. Here’s what I’ll commit to… Can you commit to this…? Let’s try to resolve this…”
The point is to start such a conversation. Don’t commit to more than you can do. Ask them to commit to one or two important things. Rule of thumb: commit to one more thing than you’re asking them to commit to. Try to resolve one item. A relationship builds.
At my last neurologist appointment, I told him that I didn’t understand the letter that he sent my PCP. I could access it in the OpenNote in the portal. He took two minutes to explain it to me. It shows that I’m progressing. I’d just as soon know. I see that the next letter is written more clearly. My communication with him is a bit better. Good deal.
Building a relationship is hard stuff. All you can do is try. May the force be with you.