Going to a doctor who puts you at ease can actually improve your health. We have six tips for finding a primary care doctor you click with — and how you can make the most out of that relationship.
1. Figure out what type of patient you are, and let that guide your choice of doctor.
Ask yourself exactly what you need from your doctor. Young, healthy patients, for example, may prioritize convenience. If you have a few medical problems and need to see specialists, find a primary care physician who can easily share electronic medical records with a hospital and specialty offices.
2. Seek out a doctor who makes you feel comfortable — and trust your gut on this one.
You should immediately feel at ease with your doctor. Good signs to look out for include a doctor who makes eye contact and who listens without interrupting, and for patients of color, having a doctor from a shared background can be good for your health. If the connection isn't there, you are entitled to shop around for a different one.
3. When you go to the doctor, go prepared.
Avoid that deer-in-the-headlights feeling when your doctor asks what brings you in. Perfect your "opening statement," a concise description of what's going on and how it affects your quality of life.
"Think of it in terms of almost like a little elevator pitch," says Sana Goldberg, a nurse and author How To Be A Patient.
Also, bring in your medications and paperwork from any other doctors or hospitals — that information can be critical to your health.
4. Be clear about your agenda from the beginning, because your doctor's agenda may be different from yours.
If you make an appointment for knee pain, but your blood pressure's up when you walk in, your doctor's priority will shift to the more critical issue of blood pressure. To make sure the visit blow past your knees — or whatever else concerned you to start — come with a list or two or three of your priorities.
"I don't know what it is about walking into the doctor's office," says Jennifer Brown, a patient actor who helps train medical students at Georgetown University, "but it's incredibly easy to forget half of what you wanted to tell the doctor," Brown says.
5. Don't be afraid to be yourself at the doctor's office.
Your doctor wants to get to know you — and that familiarity can help you stay healthy.
Visits are more fun for both you and your doctor when you share photos of your kids or stories about your crazy hobbies. But it can also help your doctor take better care of you. If you have back pain and you're on your feet at work, your doctor's plan might be different than a plan for somebody who sits at a desk all day. Going through a stressful time at home might affect your blood pressure or cause headaches. Tell your doctor about your life so your doctor has all the information she needs to help.
"More is more with your primary doctor," says Dr. Kimberly Manning, an internist and associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine.
6. You have a right to give your doctor feedback. But if things aren't working, don't be afraid to break up.
We promise — your doctor really does want to hear from you about what he could be doing better. Start with personal language about how your doctor makes you feel, and try to keep your feedback specific.
If you've tried your best but you still feel like the doctor-patient relationship isn't right, you are entitled to break up with your doctor. It can be frustrating to start the search process again, but it's worth it to find a doctor who makes you feel comfortable.