Research shows that primary healthcare systems focused on continuous doctor-patient relationships are associated with better health outcomes. A patient who develops and maintains an ongoing relationship with a family doctor is more likely to benefit from better care because the physician becomes familiar with the patient’s background and medical history. This continuous relationship fosters greater trust and better communication, leading to better management of health risks and improved preventative care; and when a serious medical issue does occur, a family doctor is better able to either diagnose the problem or provide a timely referral to a specialist. Below are some tips on finding a physician if you do not already have one and developing and maintaining a successful physician-patient relationship.
Finding a physician
It is estimated that over 175,000 people in British Columbia do not have a family physician. The first step to finding a doctor is to ask friends and family for their recommendations and to be referred into the doctor’s practice through them. If this does not work, the next step is to check with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. To do that, go to their website and click on “Find a Physician”. This will direct you to a page where you can customize search criteria, such as accepting new patients, geographic area, and gender. Once you have narrowed down some options for a possible match, it is a great idea to arrange for an appointment and see the physician a couple of times before finalizing your decision. The first few appointments will give you an idea of how comfortable you are with the way the physician runs his or her practice. Do the hours of operation fit your schedule? Is there a level of rapport and trust you feel with the doctor’s demeanor and professionalism?
Maintaining a great doctor-patient relationship
When you have found a family doctor, he or she will feel responsible for your care and will expect some commitments from you. These include seeing them first for any health concerns, letting them know if you received care anywhere else, and communicating openly about your symptoms. To get the most out of your patient-doctor relationship, follow these tips provided by the College of Family Physicians of BC:
- Explain the reason for your visit when you book your appointment with the receptionist. This will allow him or her to allocate the appropriate amount of time for your visit.
- Always prepare for your appointment to ensure that your time is productive and you get the most out of your visit. Jot down questions or observations about your symptoms, and take a list of medications you are on or treatment you have already received.
- Talk openly to your doctor. It may be uncomfortable and embarrassing to talk about some intimate health concerns, but remember that anything you discuss is confidential and your doctor is there to help you.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make sure you fully understand what the doctor is telling you and make sure to clarify any confusion. It is also good to ask about what to expect next in your care.
- And Follow-up. It is generally a good idea to follow up on the tests or treatment that your doctor orders. One way to do this is to access your lab results electronically on www.myehealth.ca. The registration is free but you do have to meet certain criteria including having had labwork done within 30 days prior to registration. Once you are set up, you can view your lab results online.
Having a family physician with whom you can maintain a trusting, open relationship with shared responsibilities can be central to your health. For more resources, please access the College of Physicians and Surgeons, myehealth.ca, and the College of Family Physicians of BC.
*image via www.whattoexpect.com