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 fear of being labeled a bad patient.
Clearly there is a breakdown of communication between patients and 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 in the long run.
It is my belief that everyone can benefit from a Nurse Patient Advocate when interacting with a medical practitioner. Nurses know what immediate and long range questions to ask, they know what tests are ordered by a physician solely to prevent a lawsuit, and they know how to suggest other effective treatments without offending a doctor and don’t take it personally if they do. Nurses speak the language of the medical community and can break it down in a way that everyone can understand. 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 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 without offending the doctor. 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 doctor.