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Can You Trust Your Doctor?

Remember TV’s Marcus Welby, M.D.? (My staff just asked me, “Who is Marcus Welby?”)

When I was growing up, that is what I imagined doctors were like universally. Kind, knowledgeable, understanding and consoling, and always looking out for the patient’s best interest above all else.

As I watched TV weekly, this program “programmed” me to associate these qualities with the people in the long white coats with stethoscopes around their necks.

Although the healthcare field has changed dramatically in recent years, trust is still a very important factor in doctor-patient relationships. As I consult with new patients that come to my office for care, I have encountered a surprising number of patients that report that they are not exactly happy with their other doctors.

The reasons vary, some of which seem reasonable and some do not.

Occasionally, patients have unreasonable expectations. Some patients express dissatisfaction with what are basically administrative issues, such as having to wait excessively. Others report feeling that the doctor doesn’t listen to them or is in too much of a hurry. For some, it seems that they don’t have complete confidence in their doctor.

Some patients seem to have distrust for the entire field of healthcare. One fellow grunted when I asked about his primary care physician, “Don’t have one.” “Why not,” I asked. “Well, it’s a known fact that 50% of doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class,” he replied.

Although I can’t dispute that statistic, I can offer some reassurance to that patient and other readers. Thankfully, before any type of doctor is allowed to practice in this state, they must have passed pre-entry exams before being admitted to graduate school, numerous exams and qualifications during their training, and satisfactorily complete exhaustive board examinations before being licensed.

In other words, even the least qualified doctor has successfully attained a high level of training before being turned loose on the public.

Trust, however, depends on more than whether a doctor is adequately trained. A trusting relationship with a healthcare provider requires that the patient feel that the doctor has a genuine interest in their well being. As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Fortunately we have many exceptional doctors here in Rutherford County. If you need a good doctor, I have a few suggestions to help you find one.

  • Schedule an initial consultation to discuss your needs. Take the time to prepare by writing down the things that you would like to discuss with the doctor. Due to time limitations, you may not be able to delve into every conceivable concern, but at least you can prioritize the things that are most important to you.

  • During your visit, be very upfront about concerns you have that may affect your satisfaction. Ask the staff about typical waiting times, fees, insurance issues, or other administrative details.

  • When you meet with the doctor use your time efficiently to tell them about the health concerns that you have prioritized. Ask the doctor about their opinion of the best way to proceed to meet your healthcare needs. (This might include scheduled examinations, tests, imaging, consultations with other providers, referrals, etc.)

  • Write brief notes to help you remember the recommendations. You may even want to bring a spouse or friend along to “help you listen”.

  • If you feel comfortable with this doctor and the recommendations, proceed accordingly with their plan.

  • If you are not sure that you have found a doctor in whom you have confidence, it may be a good idea to consider a second opinion.

Did you notice that a good part of developing a satisfactory relationship with your doctor depends upon your behavior as well as the doctor’s? In order for the doctor to perform their duties well, you must be open, honest, cooperative and communicative.

Next week I’ll share some new scientific discoveries that can help you stay warm.

Dr. Mark Kestner