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The Well Informed Patient

Updated: May 12, 2021

My previous blog, "Medicalese or What Did My Doctor Say?" was all about not understanding what your doctor was saying. This month I want to focus on the why. Why is it important for you to understand what is being said in the exam room? A really basic question to ask yourself before going to your doctor appointment is will I understand what is being said and also to remember to question your physician when you do not.

There are various scenarios in which the patient might not understand what his/her doctor is saying.

Sometimes the patient just might not want to ask the doctor to explain further. Maybe they are feeling a little anxious and they think they understand but in reality they haven't been listening to what the doctor was saying.

Maybe they got some news that they need to process. Sometimes patients may focus on the news or the diagnosis and not pay any attention to the rest of the conversation.

Maybe the doctor is using terminology that they don't understand and they think they should.

Maybe they are afraid of appearing dumb or uninformed if they ask a question.

Maybe the doctor appears rushed or seems very busy so they don't want to take up any more of his/her time by asking questions.

Maybe the doctor seems annoyed by multiple questions.

Maybe the doctor is speaking really fast and they just aren't processing all that was said.

Maybe they are a little hard of hearing but don't want to admit it.

There are a multitude of reasons why a patient might not understand what was said in their appointment. Some are the doctor's fault and others are the patient's fault.

What ever the reason for this miscommunication, it is important to fully understand what your doctor is saying to you during your appointment.

You need to understand your doctor so that you can understand your diagnosis.

You need to listen to your doctor and focus on what your diagnosis means to you.

You need to fully comprehend the various treatment options in order to make the best decision for your health.

Patients who understand their doctors will know what symptoms to look out for and when to notify their physician if something isn't right. A patient who understands what their doctor is saying will be a more active participant in their healthcare. This is called shared decision making, when a patient is fully engaged in their own care. They take ownership of their care and make sure that they are doing all that is possible for their health and well being.


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