Top 10 things patients shouldn’t do to mess up their own care.
1. You talk on your cell phone.
2. You lie.
“I need to treat you the best way I can, so if you’re gay, tell me. If you drink a bottle of tequila every night, I need to know. If you’re having an affair and not using condoms, let me know,” says Rankin, who blogs at “Owning Pink.” “I promise I won’t judge you.”
3. You do a sloppy job describing your pain.
“You should describe the exact location, how intense the pain was, what provoked it and how long it lasted,” says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, director of the New York University Women’s Heart Program.
The week before your appointment, keep a diary of your pain and your other symptoms, too, advises Dr. Loren Fishman, a clinical professor of rehabilitative medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He suggests using this time to also think about the questions you want to ask your doctor and what you hope to get out of your appointment.
4. You don’t state up front all the reasons for your visit.
If your ear hurts, your knee pops out when you run and you have a sty in your eye, state all three concerns at the beginning of the appointment so your doctor can plan your visit efficiently, advises Dr. Howard Beckman, an internist and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Rochester.
5. You don’t state up front your expectations for your visit.
If you have certain hopes or expectations — the doctor will pop that sty in your eye or prescribe antibiotics for your sore ear — say so. The doctor can then explain if your expectations are realistic, and you’ll be happier in the end.
“Sometimes patients are out of proportion to what the reality is, like the 44-year-old woman who hopes to get pregnant in one IVF cycle,” says Dr. Jamie Grifo, program director of the New York University Fertility Center. “If they don’t communicate patients’ expectations, then I can’t address them.”
6. You don’t know what medications you’re taking.
If you take supplements, Rankin suggests you bring them in, since supplements aren’t standardized like prescription drugs, and your doctor will want to see all the ingredients.
7. You leave with unspoken questions and concerns.
8. You don’t bring your medical records or images with you.
Yes, even in this day and age, many doctors rely on the fax machine to send medical records to and fro. Faxes goof up, so unless you absolutely, positively know your doctor has your records and images from another office, bring them with you, doctors advise.
9. You’re too scared to disagree with your doctor.
If your doctor suggests you need an antidepressant and you don’t want to take it, say so instead of nodding your head, taking the prescription and throwing it away the minute you’re out the door. Or if she suggests a medication you can’t afford, just say so.
“I know many of you are programmed not to question your doctor, but we can’t read your mind, so we need you to communicate,” Rankin says. “If the treatment plan I suggest doesn’t resonate with the intuitive wisdom of your Inner Healer, please tell me, instead of ignoring what I suggest.”
10. You don’t comply with the treatment plan.
“Please follow through and do what you’ve agreed to do,” Rankin says. “And if you don’t, please tell me so I don’t mistakenly assume the treatment failed. I won’t jump all over you. I just need to know.”