Sunday, March 21, 2010

Do You And Your Doctor Have An Understanding?

Do You And Your Doctor Have An Understanding?
by Renee S. Frazier
Special to the Tri-State Defender

Everyone visits the doctor, but how many times have you left wondering if the doctor really understood what you were saying? And how many times have you left without fully understanding your doctor?

Doctors keep very hectic schedules. On average, they see 30 to 35 patients a day; that’s about 152 patients a week!   Primary care doctors, who many refer to as their family physicians, often are required to see even more patients.

This means that on average, doctors have about 7-10 minutes to spend with each patient.  So, it does not surprise me when patients feel like their doctor does not take adequate time to really talk with them about their concerns and answer their questions.

Healthy Memphis Common Table is working to help you and your doctor improve the quality of your visits by encouraging you to “Take Charge for Better Health.”   What does that mean?   Well, when it comes to the doctor’s visit, it means that you come prepared to ask questions about your concerns.  It means bringing along prescribed medications and any other over the counter pills. It means discussing your family’s history of illness. Often times while sitting in the waiting room, you will be asked to complete a medical history form. Fill it out completely, and bring your relatives’ recent illnesses and other matters of importance to your doctor’s attention during your appointment. It’s your body so don’t be afraid to talk about it.  Your doctor will listen.

Carry a check list as a guide. We have a nice one entitled the “Care You Need Most,” available on our website, Just click the “Stay Healthy” button on the homepage to download it. It highlights important health topics for you and your doctor to discuss, and provides spaces to record information about blood pressure, cholesterol, weight issues and more.  You should never leave your doctor’s office without a clear understanding of his or her instructions and concerns.  Your doctor can’t read your mind so ask questions.

The Take Charge Card on our site offers a free wallet-sized list of preventive care questions to help you stay healthy.  If you go to, and hit the “Take Charge Card” link, I will personally mail one to you.  Prevention is very important, and it can reduce the money you and your family spend for health care.

What Is a health care consumer?

Taking Charge for Better Health is a program that gives health care consumers tools to help improve health care delivery. A health care consumer is more than just a patient; he or she is an educated patient who takes the time to do research before doctor visits.

We can be very proactive when purchasing cars, clothes, food, and other things we need and want—researching prices, brands, features and getting feedback from the manufacturer and consumers.  I know when my husband and I were looking to purchase a 52’ flat screen television, I went to three different stores and checked the Internet for information about the models I thought I wanted to buy.  I asked questions and made sure I got answers.  I learned as much as I could about those televisions before we made a decision.

When it comes to your health care, you can practice some of those same approaches by visiting www.Healthy  Just click our “Patient Experience” link under the “Find Quality Care” section. In this section, we share patient insights about their experiences with area doctors.  Our site also contains data that compares the quality of the patient care provided by area hospitals and physicians. This new, comprehensive information is designed to help you select the doctor who will best help you manage your health and health care.

Remember, effective communication between you and your doctor starts with you “Taking Charge for Better Health.”  You should leave every doctor’s visit feeling like all your questions and concerns have been addressed.

You should understand your symptoms, treatment and medication.  You and your doctor both have valuable information that you need to share with each other, and if only one of you understands, that’s no good. Do your part by researching your doctors, being mentally prepared for each doctor’s visit and exercising effective communication.  With those things in place, you will get more from your doctor’s visits and increase your odds of maintaining your health.  That’s something you and your doctor can both understand.

(Renee Frazier, FACHE, MHSA, is executive director of Healthy Memphis Common Table. Contact her at; Visit

No comments: