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.

Canadian Living - - Contents - BY TERRI COLES

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.

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