Why your "vibe" with your health care provider matters.
How do you select your health care provider? Some people decide to go with providers that are in their neighborhoods. Some people start their search using their health insurance directory. Some people have used the same provider for years because that provider has cared for every family member living in the area. Some follow the referral trail where your primary care physician refers you out to other physicians or specialists. We must not forgot those of us who tap into our detective skills and use the directory, reviews, physician's profile, review years of experience and check out the office before making that appointment. Regardless of how you select your provider, you can usually only tell if it is a good fit after meeting with them face to face.
Here's the thing with health care providers. They are people just like everyone else. While they may be educated, that does not mean that they have instantly checked their stereotypes and biases at the door before serving patients. It takes a lot of conscious work and self reflection to be able to serve everyone equally and provide the same standard of care. These biases aren't usually blatant. They may present themselves as assumptions being made in regards to your lifestyle, health habits or even weight. While no one is perfect, you should never feel uncomfortable or judged while being provided care. Remember that it is within your right to choose another provider if you don't feel respected.
A good provider will listen to your questions, needs and complaints in regards to your health. They will provide you with options regarding your care and make the time to explain a diagnosis or treatment if needed. They will accommodate your language, your culture and provide additional materials or referrals if needed. Considering the time constraints of office visits and the use of electronic charting, it is understandable that not all visits will feel personal and detailed. However, you should not walk outside of your providers office feeling like you were not heard or understood.
Bedside manner is usually used to refer to how providers treat their patients at the bedside in the hospital but this really means their approach or attitude towards their patients in general. A healthcare provider should be respectful to their patient and exhibit professionalism. The interesting thing about bedside manner is that different patients prefer different approaches and that's perfectly fine. The key to this is to use your voice and make your requests known. When something makes you uncomfortable, speak up. Want a nurse in your room when you get an exam? Ask for one. Prefer your handouts in your native language? Ask for it. Your provider may not have the means to honor all of your requests but if it is important to you, you should ask. Take note of their response to your requests. If the provider seems annoyed or irritated by the simple act of the request, reassess if this provider is a good fit for you.
Patient Centered Care
This is the hot term in healthcare facilities everywhere. It is a style of care where the patient actively participates in their own medical treatment and all care is provided with the patient being the focal point. It is so important that it is becoming part of how surveying institutions measure quality of care and how federal programs are deciding to reimburse facilities. The key thing to remember about patient centered care is that the goal is to empower patients to be involved. Therefore, you should never feel like you are being a nuisance when you are asking questions or requesting clarification for something you do not understand. Remember, you are seeking the expert advice of clinicians but you are the expert on your body. You must always have a say on what is being done to or for you. The right provider for you will respect this.
In writing this blog post, I have to acknowledge that there is a large population of people who do not have access to quality care or providers. That is a huge problem that has yet to be solved. However, it is important to remember that regardless of what type of insurance you have or where you live, you have patient rights. Even if you are uninsured, you are still the focal point of your care. You have a right to be treated appropriately and with respect regardless of where you are receiving care. Lastly, trust your intuition. In order to have a good relationship with your provider, trust must be established and communication must be adequate. If something does not feel right, trust yourself and seek the clarification you need. Always use your voice to discuss your needs and concerns and never allow anyone to undermine you, especially when it comes to your body.
To learn more about Patient Centered Care
To learn about New York State Physician's Profile
To learn more about Patient Rights in Hospitals in NY