That white coat sure is intimidating: In a new survey, only 14 percent of patients said they would speak up if they differed with their doctor about the best way to treat a health issue. But believe it or not, sometimes your physician would prefer a face-off.
“Patients are very reluctant to disagree because they fear if they do, they may be branded a difficult patient and receive worse quality care in the future,” says study author Dominick L. Frosch, Ph.D., of Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute, whose findings were published in Archives of Internal Medicine.
So instead, you smile and nod at your appointment. But then you don’t fill that prescription or get those follow-up tests, potentially hurting your health, Frosch says.
A better solution: Go ahead, force the issue. You might come up with a better solution, says Sagar Nigwekar, M.D., a kidney specialist in Boston and coauthor of the book Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor. “As a physician, I actually love it when patients ask questions and come up with alternative options,” he says. “It makes me think and keeps me at the top of my game.”
Here are five important fights to have with your physician. If yours gets mad after you’ve raised one of these issues respectfully, it may be time for you to stop quarreling and find a new doc.
“I don’t want to take medication”
If your diagnosis is high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, your doctor may walk in the room with a script half-written. But a prompt from you could encourage him to discuss other options like diet and exercise before sending you scurrying to the pharmacy, Frosch says. And trust us, you should consider those options first. Click here to learn how you can Escape from Statins.
“I’d rather not have surgery.”
If your doctor is trying to diagnose you, ask if he or she can do it without slicing you open. “Now, we have many more tests that can be done on the patient’s urine or blood, which avoids more risky procedures such as biopsies,” says Dr. Nigwekar. Depending on your illness or injury, noninvasive treatment options may include medication or physical therapy.
“I’m too busy for all of these follow-up appointments.”
Sometimes, there’s no substitute for an in-person visit. But often, your doctor can monitor you from afar. You might be able to take your blood pressure at home and transmit it digitally, or arrange for blood tests at a lab closer to your home or office, Dr. Nigwekar says.
“That drug is too expensive.”
“There may be generic options out there that are equally good and much less expensive, but the physician–because of prescribing habits or just being unaware–doesn’t even think about them,” says Dr. Nigwekar. Bring it up–don’t just head home with a script you’ll never fill.
“This isn’t what I saw online.”
Don’t hide the fact that you’ve already diagnosed yourself via Internet. Instead, ask about confusing or conflicting information you’ve read, Dr. Nigwekar recommends. You might bring up a point your doctor hasn’t considered. Or, if your source is sketchy, your M.D. can direct you to a more reliable URL. One thing you surely shouldn’t trust: Your Google search of “skin cancer pics.” Instead, view our slideshow of What Skin Cancer Looks Like.