A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that only one out of seven patients is willing to voice their opinion and disagree with a doctor’s treatment plan. The majority of participants in the study stated they felt uncomfortable speaking up out of respect for their doctor and they feared being labeled a bad patient.
Clearly there is a breakdown of communication between patients and their doctors. This, of course, becomes a safety issue when patients return home and don’t fill their prescriptions, get a blood test, or make an appointment with a physical therapist. The doctor is unaware that the patient is not following through with the treatment plan and the patient may become sicker as a result.
It is my belief that everyone can benefit from a Nurse Patient Advocate when interacting with a doctor. Nurses Patient Advocates have experience in health care and know what immediate and long range questions to ask, why certain tests are ordered and which ones are optional, and they usually know how to suggest other effective treatments without offending a doctor. Nurses speak the language of the medical community and can act as a medical jargon translator between patients, family members, and the care team. They also do it with warmth and a smile.
However, if you decide to go it alone, begin by asking your doctor how important the recommended treatment is that he or she is prescribing. For example, “What is going to happen if I don’t get this prescription filled?” or, “My insurance won’t cover a CT scan. Are there other alternatives?” This is a good way to open the conversation. In fact, most doctors are happy when their patients take an active interest in their own care. But if your physician is reluctant to discuss the rationale behind his or her treatment plan, it might be time to get a new provider.