Good health care should be a partnership between doctor and patient. But at the doctor's office, many patients don't speak up or ask questions, even if they are confused about what they are hearing. Some worry they will take too much of the doctor's time or are afraid they will ask a stupid question. Others simply forget the questions they wanted to ask.
"Going to the doctor's office can be intimidating; it can be anxiety provoking," says Dr. Janna Andrews, a professor at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. "It's important to go in with a list of questions so that you don't forget all the things that are concerning you or on your mind."
Andrews, a Mineola-based oncologist specializing in treating breast cancer, says most doctors not only don't mind being asked questions, they welcome them. "There's no dumb questions, there's no stupid questions," she says. "It's our job as physicians to make sure that you understand as much as possible."
For patients who find themselves emotionally overwhelmed, it's a good idea to bring along a relative or friend. Again, Andrews says most doctors welcome this. "If you bring another set of ears, maybe you'll catch some information that you wouldn't have otherwise," she says. You can go home and discuss what was said instead of trying to remember what you think was said. "Sometimes we hear what we want to hear," she says.
Andrews is holding a "Speaking With Your Doctor" forum at Adelphi University's Alumni House in Garden City on Thursday, 6-8 p.m., where she will give advice on strategies patients can use to make their trip to the doctor more effective. The forum is free and open to everyone, but because of Andrews' specialty in oncology it will be particularly beneficial for anyone diagnosed with breast cancer. Reservations are required. Call 516-877-4325.
For more ideas, the National Institute on Aging offers "Talking With Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People." The 44-page booklet has sections on how you can make decisions along with your doctor, how to ask strong follow-up questions and a guide that translates the abbreviations on prescription medicine bottles. Download the booklet at nwsdy.li/talkpdf. You can order a free printed copy at nwsdy.li/orderbooklet. No phone orders are accepted.
As for the anxiety you feel when going to the doctor, you are not alone. "We all hate going to the doctor," Andrews says. "Doctors hate going to the doctor."