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A Visit to the Doctor

The following is a guest post from William J. Hall, MD, AARP Board Member . Bill Hall is a geriatrician with a special interest in strategies for successful aging.


Let's talk about rights. After decades of doing this, I think that far and away the most common concerns I hear relate to the quality of the personal interaction between you the patient and your physician or other health care providers. Everybody seems rushed. There are often questions that you want to have addressed but time runs out.  Yet we recognize that a positive, nurturing relationship with a primary care physician can be one of the most important factors in maintaining good health.

The irony is that your doctor probably feels the same way! Primary care physicians find their schedules too crowded, that various institutions strictly limit the amount of time allocated for each patient, and above all, the paper work is crushing.

I have been personally impressed with the herculean efforts that AARP is making to enhance many aspect of health care for seniors, including the all-important personal relationship with your doctor. But even now, while we optimistically wait for health care reform there are strategies to improve the quality of your encounter with your physician.

From the patient's standpoint, we all have the right to courteous and individualized care, the right to express concerns and obtain answers, and that unsettled issues will be resolved. The patient is responsible for being considerate of the time pressures of the physician, for following advice, and for knowledge of medications he or she uses. Both the physician and the patient have the right to be treated with mutual courtesy and respect.

I have found that many of the current older generation tend to be deeply respectful of authority figures, so much so that they may need prompting to fully describe their reasons for seeking medical care. Conversely the maturing baby boomers will not have that particular problem.

In subsequent posts I will describe some simple strategies we can use to enhance for both ourselves and our physicians that all-important personal relationship.

Photo credit: HackingNetflix on Flickr.

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