Now that terms like “medical gaslighting” have become part of open discussions, the medical establishment is finally recognizing the reality that many patients have known for years: Doctors aren’t always great at listening to their patients.
At least one study has indicated that patients have only 11 seconds to talk about their condition before they’re interrupted by the doctor. That shuts a lot of patients down, especially if the doctor gives them the impression that they’re not welcome to continue talking. Doctors routinely devalue patient complaints by blaming symptoms on age, hormones and weight – or dismiss patient concerns as being a product of “too much reliance on Dr. Google.”
So, how do you get a doctor to listen to you and take your concerns seriously? Here are some suggestions:
Go in with a plan
You may have some very definite concerns that you’d like to have addressed. Sure (for example), that chronic cough could be allergies, but you’re also worried it’s a symptom of esophageal cancer because you’re also having trouble swallowing.
Don’t let the doctor brush off your symptoms without asking if they’ve considered the possibility. If they haven’t or they can’t adequately explain why they are ruling out your concerns, be direct and ask for a test.
Take someone with you for support
This can mean different things to different people. If you’re nervous about talking to your doctor, having a friend or family member there can simply give you a little confidence booster to make things easier.
Or, maybe you can ask the other person to interject and ask the doctor something that you’re hesitant to say yourself. Sometimes, having someone other than the patient say, “Have you considered this condition?” or “What about that test?” can at least force a doctor to think about the choices they’re making.
Make them document any refusals
What if your doctor is obstinate and still refuses to do testing that you think you need without a good reason? Tell them you’d like that documented in your chart. Your doctor may think again when they realize they have to put their justification for refusal into your record where it could become part of a medical malpractice claim later.
It’s a sad reality that a lot of patients have to navigate their doctor’s fragile egos when they’re trying to get the care they need. If you or your loved one suffered medical harm as a result of a doctor’s negligence, it may be time to learn more about your legal options.