Living with a chronic condition like psoriatic arthritis (PsA) means your doctor is more than someone you see when you have the occasional sniffle. You end up developing a long-term relationship and, just like with all other relationships, it takes effort by all parties to make it work. Consultations with a medic will never be as fun as hanging out with your bestie, but getting along with your physician is just as important. In fact, the value of strong patient-doctor relations is proven scientifically. A recent study showed that good relationships with a physician really make a difference to health outcomes1,2.
The good patient
Your physician could be the kindest, most brilliant, Nobel Prize worthy person around, but they still need a bit of help from your side. So, before each appointment, take some time for “homework”. We all know PsA symptoms can vary. So, to give your physician the full picture, try tracking symptom and lifestyle changes. Keep a diary note or use a tracking app to help your physician identify patterns and triggers for flare-ups, and so prevent future flare-ups before they begin.
Another great prep tip is to keep a running list of questions for your physician. Try ranking them in order of priority.
Likewise don’t forget to bring a notepad to write down any advice from your physician. And for support bring along a friend or family member. Physicians can share an overwhelming amount of information, especially during the first few visits after diagnosis.
Talk it out
Although everyone should feel they can speak openly with a physician, the reality can be a little different… A study in America found that 30 percent of women and 23 percent of men have told their doctors white lies or withheld information3. Although the idea of discussing a certain symptom or issue with your doctor may leave you cringing with discomfort, just remember, your doctor has probably advised on the problem many times before. It is quite literally their job to deal with the weird ways of the human body! Even if your problem is also new ground for them, a compassionate physician will take you seriously and try to find a solution.
What about doctors? Doctors have said that they sometimes minimize information or oversimplify explanations as they wish to avoid confusing patients, or to eliminate unrealistic hope4. If you feel that your doctor is treating you with kid gloves, tell them it’s not necessary.
So, to have your share of voice in the relationship with your doctor, do your research, note any advice and communicate openly. After all, it takes two and you’re both in it together!
1 Massachusetts General Hospital Press Release “Study confirms impact of clinician-patient relationship on health outcomes”. http://www.massgeneral.org/about/pressrelease.aspx?id=1691 Published: 09.04.14. Last accessed: 29.04.16
2 The Influence of the Patient-Clinician Relationship on Healthcare Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Kelley JM, Kraft-Todd G, Schapira L, Kossowsky J, Riess H. PLoS One. 2014 Apr 9;9(4):e94207.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=24718585 10.11.2015. Last accessed: 29.04.16.
3 Website “Zocdoc” – New Zocdoc study reveals women are more likely than men to lie to doctors. https://www.zocdoc.com/about/news/new-zocdoc-study-reveals-women-are-more-likely-than-men-to-lie-to-doctors 10.11.2015. Last accessed: 29.04.16.
4 Lies in the Doctor-Patient Relationship. Palmieri JJ, Stern TA. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2736034/ 2009;11(4):163-8