WHAT YOUR DOCTOR WISHES YOU’D DO
We polled family doctors from across the country, and they laid down the law on eight things they wish we’d do— or stop doing.
Our panel of MDS reveal their patient peeves—and how you can make the most of your next appointment
According to our panel of general practitioners, Canadians aren’t always doing what they should to make the most of doctor visits—and skipping out on these crucial tactics could lead to a delay in diagnosing serious conditions. Here’s what our experts say you should add to your patient checklist.
1 Stop feeling shy
Many of us hesitate to talk to our physicians about sensitive issues (think substance abuse or sexual health—or even gender identity). But honesty and openness are important, both for fostering a good doctor- patient relationship and for ensuring that you get the best care, says Dr. Laura Pripstein, medical director of the Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto and a staff physician on the family health team. That’s why it’s OK to try out a doc before committing. Dr. Pripstein recommends booking an initial visit to see if your potential doctor is a good fit. “You want to see if this person seems like someone you can talk to, someone you feel comfortable with,” she says. And if you don’t think your doctor understands or respects your concerns, don’t be afraid to find someone new. “If you feel you can’t ask questions that might be embarrassing, you don’t have the right provider,” says Dr. Pripstein.
2 DON’T COME TO YOUR APPOINTMENTS UNPREPARED
Get the most out of your time—and your doc’s—by arriving at your appointment with a clear plan for what you want to discuss, says Dr. David Ross, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. “It’s good to have patients think about their problems from when the issue began, then look at it chronologically to the present,” says Dr. Ross. Making a prioritized pointform list in advance helps ensure that you don’t forget anything or mix up the order of events, he says. Then, work with your doctor to address the most serious issues first.
3 CHOOSE YOUR FAMILY DOC OVER THE WALK- IN CLINIC WHENEVER YOU CAN
Yes, a clinic is convenient, but what we gain in easy access, we lose in familiarity. “I think it’s really valuable if people can connect with a family physician who they’ll be able to see long term, rather than just looking for the quickest way to access care,” says Dr. Maurianne Reade, a physician with the Manitoulin Central Family Health Team in Mindemoya and M’chigeeng First Nation, Ont. A family doctor will know your medical history and will keep it in mind when suggesting treatment— so, for example, if you’ve recently taken several courses of antibiotics for a UTI, your physician will likely look for a different course of action if you come in with another infection. According to the most recent statistics, about 4.5 million Canadians don’t have a regular family doctor. If that’s you, contact your provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, or check to see if your region has an online registry ( Ontario has Health Care Connect, while Quebec launched a webbased family doctor finder last year). “It’s important to know that we doctors are privileged to share in your stories and to help you through difficult times,” says Dr. Reade.