6 things you know that your doctor doesn't


We doctors may be intelligent but we are not always smart. Some things that are obvious and well known to our patients completely escape us. Here are some important things you know that we probably don't.

1- Our explanations are so confusing that you have no idea what we are talking about.

We think you understand us, but we are often wrong. We are so accustomed to using big words and medical terms that we can talk for 10 minutes and not say anything that makes sense. I recently observed a student interview a young patient about migraines. She asked, "Do you have an aura?" The patient replied, "No." I then asked the patient if he knew what an aura was- "Nope!" He had no idea! This kind of  poor communication is common. Tell us when you don't understand. You deserve an answer that makes sense.

2-How much your medication costs.

Medication costs vary widely and many doctors have no idea how expensive a prescription is. I have seen patients pay $115 for a prescription at a major chain pharmacy that could be purchased for $10 at a discount store. I have also seen dermatologists prescribe an expensive brand name acne antibiotic instead of a generic version of the same medication. The difference in cost- $900 a month! The dermatologists had no clue! Tell your doctor when your medication is expensive and ask for other options.

3- How rude or nice the office staff is.

Doctors are often very poor business managers. They are frequently unaware of the customer service provided by their staff. They probably don't know how long you were on hold, how abrupt the staff was when you arrived, are how long you waited before your needs were addressed. Before leaving and finding another doctor (with equally rude staff), let your doctor know how you are treated.

4- Your Name

This one is embarrassing. I frequently encounter patients while out at the movies or shopping. Many times I am better at remembering diagnoses and medications than I am a patient's name! On more than one occasion I have made my wife hurry down a different store aisle to avoid seeing a patient whose name I could not recall! Be kind and reintroduce yourself!

5- What your insurance covers

Most doctors contract with multiple insurance plans, all of which have different rules, provider networks and conditions for coverage. We just can't keep up with it all. You may be more likely to know which lab to use, what hospital to go to or what your co-payment is than we are. It is wise to confirm with your doctor or insurer before getting tests or X-rays done or before seeing a specialist.

6- How worried and frightened you are

We deal with illness every day. You don't. As a result we may forget how frightened you are of a serious diagnosis. We sometimes say things like, "We want to make sure it isn't cancer," and think we are being reassuring. What the patient hears is-"You might have cancer!" Fear and panic may set in. Cancer may be low on the list and we may just be being thorough, but our words cause needless worry. If you are worried or fearful, tell us! 

 We are doctors and we are educated, but we are still people, with all of the limitations that come with being human. Communication is a common weakness. Our patients are uniquely equipped to help us do better, because you know things we don't!

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