Please join me as I hold this workshop at Full Spectrum Family Medicine –  learn how to accurately and quickly track what’s going on with you so you can feel better quicker.

Drum roll. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

PATIENT POWER:GET THE HEALTHCARE YOU DESERVE

This class shows you how to record and give your doctor the most complete up to date information on your medical history, effects of medications, current symptoms and concerns so your doctor can make recommendations that fit your needs.

You will learn how to:

● Easily track and update your medical history including dates of past surgeries, illnesses, and allergies so that you can accurately share this information with your doctor
● Efficiently keep track of how changes in your medications are affecting you, which gives your doctor specific information so they can customize their recommendations to fit your unique situation
● Clearly, concisely share your symptoms and ask for the help you need
● Make sure you and your doctor understand each other so you can make the choices that are right for you

Date: Monday, April 16th and 23rd, 2012
Time: 7:00 – 8:30PM
Place: Full Spectrum Family Medicine
2025 Abbott Rd, Suite 100, East Lansing, MI 48823
Facilitator: Char Brooks, Patient Advocate
Price: $50 (includes Patient Power: Get the Healthcare You Deserve)

To Register, contact Full Spectrum at 517-333-3550

Hope to see you soon.

We can all pretty much agree that the health care system is broken. Whether you are a patient, a provider or staff member things are not running smoothly these days. Administrative headaches with insurance companies, miscommunications and general frustration are pretty much the norm. This is the unfortunate way things are at the moment.

I hold out hope, though, that this is not the way things will always be. That there will be shifts and changes over time – just like the days of Marcus Welby have morphed into a situation like this where no one’s needs are being met much of the time.  Somehow things got out of control. And I trust that somehow things will start working better again.

It’s a tangled mess at the moment and you have to start somewhere.

I believe the place to start is with us as health consumers.

That is why I have created Patient Power:  Get the Healthcare You Deserve – you can get the information you need, make sure you and your provider understand each other easily, without getting overwhelmed and frustrated.

I see my job as helping those of you who want to lead full active lives manage your health in ways that work for you.  Whether you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or arthritis, are struggling with niggling aches and pains or have something more serious, I want to support you in getting your needs met by your healthcare provider.

What this means is that rather than take an adversarial approach that the health care system is broken and healthcare providers need to step up to the plate, we as healthcare consumers need to partner with them.

How can we get our needs met for good quality healthcare?

It is our responsibility – even when we are sick, angry, frustrated, scared or overwhelmed – to communicate what’s going on with us clearly so that our healthcare providers can apply their professional expertise to our unique situation.

Without giving them the information they need in a way they can hear it, they cannot effectively help us.

That is both the very good news and the not so good news.

If we do a good job giving them concise information about our symptoms, the effects of medications we’re taking, what makes things harder for us, and what we want help with – we have a good chance of getting our needs met as long as we have a good working relationship.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that there are times where we can communicate concisely and clearly, and still not get our needs met.

When that is the case, it’s time to look at whether we have the right healthcare provider.  That can be a very difficult experience particularly when we’re not feeling well and need their help.  And that is the bad news. . . and at the same time is very good information to have so that we can move forward and find the right provider.

Either way, good clear concise objective information and making our requests known will help us all work together.

I want you to remember you are not a patient.  You are a person – and a healthcare consumer from time to time – but first and foremost you are a person with lots of activities, interests, and passions.

No one wants or needs to define themselves as a patient.  From time to time – sometimes more often than we like – we assume the role of a patient.

And when we need help and use the healthcare system, we then don the garb of a patient.  During those times, we need to step into the consumers shoes that we are wearing and strut our stuff by modeling clear concise communication skills to get our needs met.

It all boils down to how YOU take responsibility for getting your own needs met – and when we all do that, then we have a lot more satisfied healthcare consumers.  And that is my ultimate goal.

And that is what everyone wants:  you want help to feel better and your provider wants to use their professional skills to help you.

There is a big movement right now where healthcare providers and patients seem to be polarized.  Many healthcare providers feel overworked and underpaid.  Many patients are outraged by how slowly the wheels of healthcare turn and how difficult it is to get the help they need. There is an easier, more efficient way.

Here are some tips to get your needs met as a healthcare consumer:

  • Figure out what issue you need help with, what makes your symptoms worse and what makes things easier. Use the Appointment Preparation Worksheet ahead of time so that you remember everything.
  • Share facts about what’s going on with you rather than stories. Here’s an example of a fact:  My hands hurt when I type. I get shooting pains in all my fingers that go up through both my hands.
  • Bring a list of all of your medications and supplements to your appointment.
  • If you’ve done research on your condition, bring a specific list of questions that you have rather than asking them to read your research material during the appointment. You can bring  a copy of your research with you if you want and ask them to read it later and have it available in case they ask for it.
  • If you don’t have a definite diagnosis or if you’re unsure, always ask your provider these two questionsWhat do you think is wrong with me?  What else could it possibly be? These questions remind your provider to think expansively about what could possibly be going on with you.

Having said all this, be gentle with yourself. It’s really really hard when you are sick or in pain to be articulate. Know that you are doing a heroic thing by asking for what you need directly and clearly, even though life is difficult for you right now,  and give yourself credit for that.

Yes, the system is broken – no question about it. And as broken as it is, there are good healthcare providers everywhere who want to help us as patients and we need to give them what they need so they can do their job well.

We all need to work together rather than against each other:  it’s your job to let your healthcare provider know what you need. And you can do this!

I’m a huge fan of Survivor and, for those of you who don’t know, they just began a new season.  There are many reasons I love this show but one of the biggest is that there are some valuable life lessons.

Because I’m so enamored with how we manage our health and communicating clearly with our providers, I see almost everything in life as in some way analogous to healthcare.

So, without further ado, here’s are the life lessons I noticed along with the analogy to your health issues:

1.  What’s the biggest obstacle for the team?  Trust!  This was the assessment that the host, Jeff Probst, made at tribal council about the losing team.  Their biggest obstacle was trusting each other.

The Healthcare Analogy:  When you’re trying to understand what’s going on with your mental or physical health, trusting the people who are helping you is your biggest obstacle.  That includes not only trusting that they have the expertise you’re looking for but also trusting that they are the right provider for you.  I suggest you read this on choosing the right healthcare provider for you to help figure out what you’re truly looking for in terms of support.

2.  Find people who are loyal with you and stick with them:  This is Coach’s approach to the game so he says.  His game is built on loyalty and integrity, though he doesn’t define those terms clearly.

The Healthcare Analogy:  Finding healthcare provider’s can be tricky.  If you’ve been struggling with your health for a while and have had an ongoing relationship with your healthcare provider, even if it’s been less than perfect, you may feel loyal because you share so much history together.  On the other hand, it’s important to always look out for what’s in your best interest (since your healthcare provider works for you) and explore what’s going on when things feel unsettled

3.  Don’t shoot  yourself in the foot:  Brandon wants to get rid of a very strong player, Mikayla, because she represents a threat to him.  It seems he feels attracted to her, equates her with Pavrati who was a villain on a previous series and can’t get past it.  It would not be in the best interest of the team to get rid of a strong player at this point in the game as it would affect their ability to win challenges.

The Healthcare Analogy:  If you have a healthcare provider who is a good fit but something feels unsettling, I suggest you do your best to talk with your provider about what’s not working to see if you can address the issue together.  For example, if your doctor does a great job of diagnosing your problem and offering good options that work for you but you’re having trouble getting prescription refills, ask whether she’d be willing to put a refill on the original prescription rather than having to get a new one.  If you find that things are really not working out and that you need a new provider, I invite you to create your own Patient Power Manifesto and then interview professionals to see if they are able to offer what you’re looking for.

If you follow Survivor, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.   What life lessons did you see demonstrated in the show?  Do you see any analogies to how you handle your health and what you saw?

Tune in next week for life lessons and healthcare analogies from  episode 3 of season 23 Survivor South Pacific!!

 

 

 

“Once you see a pattern, you can’t un-see it.  Trust me.  I’ve tried.  But when the same truth keeps repeating itself, it’s hard to pretend that it’s just a coincidence.”

– Brene Brown from The Gifts of Imperfection

All my life, I have been ashamed to admit I have a very low pain tolerance.  I’ve tried muscling through, denying it, resisiting it, making fun of myself, letting others make fun of me and laughing with them – nothing works.

I still get queasy at the sight of blood and have been known to faint over what others label “something small.”

Last week,  I cut my finger while cooking.  It wasn’t a big cut but it was deep and I couldn’t get it to stop bleeding so I went to an urgent care facility to have it evaluated.

What follows are some details of this story along with some mistakes, and the lessons I  learned afterwards. I’m hoping that if you struggle with this sort of thing, the lessons I learned  may be helpful to you if you ever find yourself in a similar position.

I drove myself to the urgent care, calling my kids and two close friends while en route to let them know what happened and left messages for them, asking them to send my finger good vibes.

Mistake:  Do not drive yourself to the urgent care.  Take someone with you.

Lesson Learned:  Do your best to get a hold of someone you trust when you need urgent care, rather than driving yourself.

By the time I got to the urgent care, my finger wasn’t throbbing as much though it was still bleeding heavily.  So, I asked myself “What would you do if this was one of the kids?” which is my own standard of care that I apply to myself when I have concerns.  Just by asking myself this question, I knew that having it looked at was the only thing that made sense, so I gently escorted myself inside.

Lesson Learned:   It’s a good practice to apply the same standard to yourself that you would apply to someone you love when deciding whether you need urgent care.  Ask yourself, “What would you do if this happened to someone you love?” when deciding if you need medical attention.

The doctor looked at it and said that because it was so deep, I’d need a couple stitches.  He explained that he’d give me a shot in my finger to numb it, that it may burn a little bit, and then he’d stitch it.  “No big deal” – he said.

I then said to him:  “I have a very low pain tolerance and I’m the worst patient in the world!”

Mistake:  Do not kid about being the worst patient in the world.

Lesson Learned:  Let the doctor know you  have a low pain tolerance in a direct straight forward manner and that you want the maximum amount of pain medication to make the procedure tolerable.

We then proceeded to joke about my low pain tolerance and share some laughs together, along with some chit chat about a recent trip he took to Taiwan to see his family.

Mistake:  Chit chatting and laughing with a healthcare provider in a self deprecating way is inappropriate  when you’re scared of a procedure.

Lesson Learned:  Be honest about your needs for pain management.  Let the doctor know that if the pain gets to be too much, you are going to tell him to stop the procedure and give you more pain medication before he begins the procedure. (Thanks to my friend Linda, a professional caregiver, for telling me this was an option as I never knew I could do this.)

The result of my series of errors was a horrendous but life changing experience.  This was one of the most painful procedures I’ve ever had and I later learned from the nurse that there are more nerves in the tip of your finger than anywhere else in your body.  Ohhhhh, how I wish I knew that ahead of time as perhaps I would have been more assertive about my needs for pain management.

I share this with you, dear reader, because I know I’m not the only one who has a low pain tolerance.  I’m also not the only one who has tried to hide that fact or been ashamed of it.

What I have learned is that having a low pain tolerance is nothing to be ashamed of nor is it a character flaw.

After all, what is a low pain tolerance anyway?  It’s comparing how you deal with pain with how “they” (and who are the “they’s” of the world by the way?) deal with pain.  Comparisons never work when we’re talking about human behavior in my opinion as we’re all so very different.

Brene Brown also says, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

If you have a low pain tolerance, I invite you to lovingly  acknowledge this without shame or guilt  first to yourself.  If you’re anything like me, that step in and of itself may be very healing for you.   Should you find yourself in need of medical attention, it will be easier for you to communicate your needs clearly without apologizing or joking about it.  That way, it is more likely that the professionals involved will support you in getting your healthcare needs met with less pain.

Note:  This is the first in a series of case studies about how to figure out if you’ve got the right healthcare provider for your needs.  This case study talks about how to work with those unsettling feelings that may be your first indication that things aren’t working for you.


Jane (a fictitious name) went to see her primary care doctor to talk about her anxiety and felt unsettled afterwards. When I asked her what felt unsettling, she said she was sure it was “all in her head” and that “it didn’t make any difference because this is the only provider she can see right now due to her insurance.”

“Maybe I was just too tired to explain things clearly”, she said.  “I showed her the Appointment Prep form because I felt too overwhelmed to talk much.  But I still feel uncomfortable with what happened.”

I asked her whether she could identify any bodily sensations when she thought about her relationship with her doctor.  She said:  “Yes, when I think about what happened, I clench my teeth, my shoulders ache, and I feel my stomach churning.”

I said to Jane,  “When you think about your interaction with your doctor and you feel into those sensations, what’s the first thing that comes up.”

Jane hesitated and then replied:   ” I don’t know.  I don’t want to think about it though.”

There was a long pause before Jane said, “Well, it may have something to do with the fact that I have been on this medication for a long time to manage my anxiety and they’ve adjusted the dose a couple times.  However, when the nurse verified my medications, their electronic records had the dose wrong.  That made me uneasy as the dose was way higher than what I usually take. And the last time I was there, before they switched to electronic records, they couldn’t find my chart and when they finally found it, it was the wrong chart and we didn’t figure it out for a while.  Or, maybe, the time before that when the nurse came in and said the doctor only had 10 minutes to see me even though I’d waited over an hour for her for a regularly scheduled appointment and I felt like my issues needed more attention than that.  And come to think of it. . . . ”

As you can see, there’s plenty of reasons Jane felt unsettled about her relationship with her healthcare provider.  Here’s a little synopsis of what wasn’t working for her:

-an error in the electronic medical records about her medication

-administrative issues regarding locating and then showing up with the correct chart

-inadequate attention to her medical issues

-excessive wait time for a scheduled appointment

Here’s the point:  When you have that “unsettled feeling” with your healthcare provider, it’s worth exploring. Why?  Because, over time, you’ll be able to evaluate if this is truly the healthcare provider for you or whether you need to look at alternatives.

Though you may think there’s no alternatives available due to your insurance, the needs of your other family members, or other reasons – you can trust the old expression that where there’s a will there’s a way.  And the first step is to look at what’s bugging you about your situation.

Regardless of what type of healthcare provider you’re working with – a therapist, psychiatrist, physical therapist or other provider – if you’re feeling uncomfortable, there’s a reason for it.  It’s useful to know what that reason is as a starting place to figuring out how to get your healthcare needs addressed.  Notice that I said this is a starting place to ask yourself first what’s going on.  I encourage you to think through this thoughtfully and carefully so that you can make the choices that are right for you.

Here’s the first step if you’re feeling unsettled about your relationship with your healthcare provider:   Ask yourself if you’re willing to explore what’s bugging you about this?  Don’t force yourself to think this through – instead, extend a friendly invitation to yourself like this.  “Hey, if you wanna talk about what happened, I’m here .  If you had to guess, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?”  You may want to journal on this, talk it over with a friend or leave a comment here to get it out of your head.

I know how hard it can be to get that FIRST opinion when you’re not feeling well. Perhaps you’re finally willing to accept that something is wrong and you need help. Or, maybe you’re so sick that you feel forced to ask for help as you simply can’t go on feeling that way. Or somewhere in between.

In any event, I know when I am willing to ask for help I really I want someone to get it right, explain it to me in a way I can understand it and fix it the FIRST time (or at least give me some hope that it can be fixed if I do some things to help myself).

We’re taught to listen to the doctor, to not question what they say, to trust their expertise. To be a good girl. To not rock the boat. To do what we’re told. It’s so easy to silence that little voice inside us – that gut feel, intuition, knowing – that says that something isn’t working for you when you want help so badly.

I know – I’ve done it more times than I can count. I’m ashamed to say I still do it – though I catch myself quicker these days. But not always.

When I had the willingness to keep my appointment for a second opinion after last week’s adventure with the hand surgeon, the benefits couldn’t be measured til afterwards. Why? Because I couldn’t know what a good fit the second doctor would be for me til – obviously – after I had met with him.

I learned so much, not only about my own health situation, but also about what helps me know I have the right healthcare provider. This healthcare provider:

Gathers Specific Information: She asks specific questions like this: “I hear you have numbness in both hands. When you have numbness in your hands, where is it? Does it wake you up at night? On the average, how many times?” She listens to my answers and asks detailed follow up questions.

  • Explains Recommendations Thoroughly: She explains EVERY test that she is requesting and answers all my questions. She doesn’t order tests without telling me why.
  • Makes Referrals to Competent Providers: She works with other providers who are also responsive to my needs, schedule things promptly and ask pointed, specific questions while listen carefully to my responses.
  • Gives Detailed Follow Up Instructions: She asks to be contacted as soon as the follow up tests are scheduled to get me back in the office to go over them.
  • Has a Support Staff That Makes Things Happen Quickly: Her staff goes the extra mile by getting me in on a cancellation as I requested and also making sure the doctor has the test results before I arrive at my follow up appointment.

NONE of these things happened with the first surgeon. And I had that gut feel that things weren’t right – though I didn’t want to admit it to myself because, understandably, I really wanted the first hand surgeon to offer me what I wanted.

I didn’t know the difference between a responsive hand surgeon and one who wasn’t until I had something to compare it to. And, I had to be willing to trust my gut that something was off. Thank God I was willing to do that.

Having said all this, people vary. What’s the right provider for me may not be what’s right for you. And your opinion is the only one that counts when it comes to getting your healthcare needs met.

If you’re struggling with something that is overwhelming and hard for you, it’s understandable if you’re frustrated, sad, angry, numb, shocked or anything in between. Permission granted to feel whatever you’re feeling . . . . and also there’s help.

There’s more than one way to deal with what’s hurting; in fact, there’s so many that that can be overwhelming in and of itself especially when you’re not feeling well.

If you choose to see a healthcare provider, go to your appointment prepared and trust your gut feeling on whether you’ve got someone who can really help you.

Here’s the most important take away for you today:

Remember . . . . though you may be in the role of a “patient”, you’re not damaged goods. You have some issues that you need help with. You’re a healthcare consumer and making a purchase for your most important client – yourse
lf.

Get more than one opinion if you have any doubt about the first one. And keep looking for help until you find the healthcare provider that’s right for you. For every provider that is inattentive, I believe there is another provider who practices with integrity and professionalism.

As a Jewish Mother, let’s just say I fit the stereotype of overprotective quite nicely.   Though I know there are some things that are better left unsaid, the frustrated lawyer in me sometimes gets pretty indignant about things when I feel life has dealt my kids something they didn’t deserve. I do a fairly good job of keeping myself in check so they can learn the lessons that are available for them when things don’t go as planned . . . . . but what happened to my oldest son the other day has really got me steamed up. With his permission, I’ll share this little rant.

He has had some serious bad bike karma.  Two times now his bike has been stolen.  The first time happened while he was in college.  The second time, he loaned his bike to his roommate who went out and “forgot” to lock it up in Washington, DC.

Apparently, bike thievery is rampant there and you’re asking for it if you don’t lock your bike up in at least two places.  After collecting the money from his roommate, my son proudly purchased a new bike complete with two bike locks from Revolution Cycles in Washington, DC.   His bike is his primary mode of transportation and he made his selection carefully, being especially mindful about bike security – hence the kryptonite lock plus the cable lock recommended by the store.

Three days later, while out to dinner with his friends, he comes out of the restaurant to find his wheels and seat which were locked up with the cable lock missing. Immediately he contacted the store and shortly thereafter took everything in.

The store was completely unsympathetic, wouldn’t stand behind the cable lock that they sold him and the cost to replace the wheels and seat were almost as much as a brand new bike. When I heard this story, I went bezerk.  How could they not be sympathetic to his situation?  The bike was three days old.

The fact that this store sold him the cable lock expressly to protect his wheels and seat, and still were  unwilling to stand behind its product- which is the reason he bought it in the first place – was appalling.

My son is self sufficient financially and did everything he could to protect his property, and some idiot decided he needed his wheels and seat for reasons I’ll never understand

He said it’s a bought lesson – his next bike will be a cheap used one. I guess, given his bike history, that makes sense.

Though I agree with his conclusion, I have a big problem with Revolution Cycles and the way they handled this situation. They are out of integrity when they didn’t offer some reasonable ways to handle this unfortunate situation.  Had they offered him a discount, a refund on the lock, some used parts, or some other accommodations given the way this happened – I’d feel differently.  Their unsympathetic uncaring attitude is deplorable.

There are bigger problems in the world than a stolen bike I realize.

And since my passion is helping you make informed choices about your healthcare, I would like you to consider your relationship with your provider, and a health situation that you’re in the process of addressing. Like the bike shop I mentioned, your healthcare provider is advising you on what you need to do to take care of yourself.  I want to be sure that your needs are being met – and that you’re not being offered solutions that won’t work, much like this cable lock that turned out to be worthless.

Perhaps you’re frustrated that your provider doesn’t fully understand your situation as you’d like her to.  Maybe you’ve used my Appointment Preparation Worksheet, been as clear as you know how to be about what’s going on with you and your provider still isn’t getting it despite numerous office visits.

Just like my son who used two locks on his bike to keep it secure, you’ve done all you can to be sure your healthcare provider understands what your needs are.  Maybe you keep shelling out money and time – and you’re getting nowhere.

Or perhaps your frustration is with some of the staff who aren’t getting your messages straight, not returning phone calls or not getting your prescriptions correct.

If you’re frustrated, I get it. I’ve lived my own version of all these scenarios and I know how exasperating it can be to be doing everything possible to be pro-active about my health and still not get the attention I need costing me time, heartache and unnecessary expenses.

But, here’s where it gets interesting.

Instead of deciding that that’s just the way it is, here are a couple options:

  • Speak up: Tell your healthcare provider exactly what isn’t working for you and what you want in one sentence.  Ask them if they can help you with it?  Clarify that you understand their answer and then make a plan together complete with follow up instructions.
  • Send a Letter:  If it’s a staffing issue, send a letter factually describing the problem to the provider and suggest that they read your letter in a staff meeting.   If you want a response to your problem, let them know that.  If you just want to make them aware of it as the situation has been resolved already, you can let them know that as well.  If your healthcare provider doesn’t know how their staff is interacting with their patients they can’t correct any future problems.
  • Find Another Provider: This one is often easier said than done especially in these days where primary care providers are harder to find.   If you’ve been with your provider for a while, it’s important to weigh whether the benefits truly outweigh the burdens and whether it makes more sense to speak up or send a letter.
  • File a Complaint: This is a legitimate option where the provider’s conduct has been unconscionable and not one to undertake lightly at all.  At the same time, there’s a reason we have licensing boards, ethics boards and similar administrative agencies:  they are there so that all patients are protected from behavior that is unprofessional.  If you choose to use this option, I strongly encourage you to let your provider know that that is what you are doing and give them a chance to resolve the situation first.

I felt sad when my son decided it was time to get a cheap used bike as he couldn’t afford to keep the bike of his choice safe in the streets of DC. I want him to be able to have a nice bike and enjoy it – and this is out of my control.  He has to make the choices that are right for him and no amount of Jewish mothering will insure that his bike won’t be stolen again in the future.  I think he’s smart to cut his losses and get a cheap bike actually – though I hate to admit it.

I also feel sad whenever I hear of patient’s whose healthcare needs aren’t being met.

I do believe that “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” (pardon the terrible pun) and if you aren’t getting your healthcare needs met in a way that works for you, you owe it to yourself to go back to the drawing board.  Look at your options. See if you can address the situation with your healthcare provider first.  Or, if you’d rather be done with that particular provider, figure out exactly what was missing in that relationship, get referrals from people you trust, and interview new providers before allowing them to treat you.

Are your healthcare needs being met in a way that’s working for you? If so, that makes me happy.  If not, you’re welcome to contact me privately or leave a comment and we can brainstorm on how to get your healthcare needs met in a way that’s a match for your needs.

Can We Talk??

August 25th, 2010

Have you ever been out to lunch with someone and they ask you a question when your mouth is full?  What do you do?  If you’re like most people, you probably never thought about this – and I wouldn’t think about it either – if it hadn’t been for this story someone shared to me about a recent dental visit.  But, I’ll get to that later.

Coming back to our original story here.   How do you answer a question when you’ve got a mouth full of food?

Ann Landers would say that the polite person notices your mouth is full of food and waits to ask you a question.  Or maybe she would say that you hold your hand up before responding, finish chewing and then respond.

And in this hurry up world of ours, I often find myself answering questions with my mouth full. I know – not a pretty site.  Since I love food, I tend to rush while I’m eating anyway.    If I’m answering as I’m in the midst of a mouthful, chances are good that I’ll answer the question quicker or less thoughtfully than if my mouth was empty.

Which brings me to this story about the dentist.  Have you ever noticed that the dentist asks you questions with his hands in your mouth?  Talk about having your mouth full!

I can understand when a dentist is probing for sensitive areas and has to get feedback as he’s poking around.  It makes sense that he would say something like:  “Does it hurt when I touch here?”   It’s easy to give yes or no feedback – even a grunt will do the job.

But, when they ask things like, “When did you first notice this pain in your gums?”  it’s almost impossible to fill them in on the whole story. If you’re anything like me, I struggle to give a complete response so I give them less information than I would otherwise.

The other thing that has surprised me is though I know what I am saying, it comes out pretty unintelligibly and yet they seem to get what I’m saying.  How do they do that anyway?

And when they don’t have all the information they need, it makes it harder for them to do their job.

Once I heard this little vignette, I tuned into my own dentist’s modus operandi.  I’ve been with her a long time.  I also have to say that I’m a dental nut.  My beloved Uncle was my dentist and he instilled in me the importance of good oral hygiene while I was in utero.  I interviewed my dentist extensively before deciding she was a good fit for me and my family.

Anyway, here’s what she does every time I see her.  She reviews the notes from her assistant which are on the computer, she comes and stands in front of me, asks me whatever her questions are and THEN probes around checking for sensitivity and other issues.

If she asks me something I can’t answer fully, I stick up my hand and let her know.  Why?  Because I want to get the best care possible and I know she needs all the facts to do this.

When she’s done examining me, she tells me what she’s found without her hands in my mouth.  I make sure I understand her instructions and then we usually share a quick laugh about something to do with our kids.  I have always appreciated her – but I never knew why – until I heard this little story about dentists talking to patients with their hands in their mouth.

The world moves quickly as we all know. It’s up to us to stay connected enough with our own experiences to let our provider’s know when what they’re doing is interfering with our ability to either give information or understand what they are saying.

Here’s the important part.  If your dentist is asking you questions and you can’t respond fully as their hands are in your mouth, stick your hand up or find another way to let them know you’ve got more to say.  If a doctor is probing around and telling you about treatment options, findings, or anything else – and you’re feeling distracted by what they’re doing to you and trying to listen at the same time – say something.

You may think they don’t have time to listen or that this is no big deal – and that may in fact be true some of the time.  But, tune in to when it’s not true and when you’re censoring yourself because you’re really not in a spot to talk about what’s going on with you or you can’t listen fully.  By gently noticing this, you can trust that you’ll know when it’s time to find another way to get your healthcare needs met without “talking with your mouth full”.

I was at the dentist today getting my teeth cleaned and the hygienist and I were chatting about our kids.  We were talking about how, at a certain point, it does no good to strategize for them – especially when they aren’t interested in our point of view.

She then was describing how her daughter, who has an hour commute, calls on the way to work most every day to talk about “this, that and the other thing”. I laughed remembering how I used to do the same thing with my Mom when I was in my 20’s and how my two boys answer most questions pretty straightforwardly – there is NO “this, that and the other thing” with them.

Which also made me laugh because “this, that and the other thing” is a pretty common way of describing what’s going on with us  a lot of times.

But, the problem with describing things generally like this or in a rambling way is twofold:

  • We may not know what we really want or need
  • Someone else may not know what we want them to do or say to them

Here’s an example.

I was talking on the phone with my friend Janet who was telling me about “this, that and the other thing”.  There wasn’t room for me to get a word in edge-wise other than an uh-huh or a quick question.  Janet wasn’t interested in what I had to say – or so it seemed.  I actually never got around to asking her because she had to go.

I’m not sure if there was anything in particular that Janet wanted me to know about or whether she was asking me to do something.

What I do know is that though I felt engaged with her story and interested in the details, I wished there was some room for me to share what was going on in my world.

The truth is – I never asked her to listen to me so I can’t know what would have happened.   And that’s no one’s fault.

So, what does this have to do with ‘this, that and the other thing”?

Here’s the point.

When we talk about things in a general way to other people when we really want them to know something specific, it’s difficult to get our needs met. In terms of taking care of your health, in my humble opinion, there is no place for “this, that and the other thing”.

There is a huge need for sharing specifics about what’s not working with us and what we want help with.  Here’s a way to do this so your healthcare needs can be met in a way that works for you.

This is one of  those posts that may leave some of you saying . . . . duh, I know THAT!

It’s the simplest thing to do and the easiest thing to overlook.  Chances are good that if you’re seeing your healthcare provider, you are there because you have some specific things to discuss about your health.  Maybe you’ve filled out the Appointment Preparation Worksheet(which you can download for free) ahead of time.

Great job for preparing so that you don’t forget what’s going on with you.  High Five!!!!!

So, the next step is . . . . how are you going to remember what they’re telling you?  I often think to myself, “That is so basic – I won’t forget to do THAT. ”

AND, I’m getting old enough to know that what I think I’ll never forget is the thing that I usually don’t remember (read that sentence again and see if it’s true for you too!).

My kids laugh at me because I’m constantly messing up their names.  And don’t even get me started on my 6 animals and calling them by every name but their own.

I no longer take pride in my memory – I take pride in the fact that I compensate well for being forgetful.

There’s a book called Write It Down, Make It Happen and it talks about how things don’t get accomplished well without writing them down first.   I believe that holds true with getting your healthcare needs met too.

Here’s the secret to remembering what your healthcare provider tells you:

  • Write it Down: I developed an Appointment Summary Sheet as part of Patient Power to help you remember what your healthcare provider is recommending
  • Make It Happen: Follow the simple directions in Patient Power for making sure you and your provider are on the same page and share your Appointment Summary Sheet with them to make sure you understand their recommendations.

What would be helpful for you to remember to tell your healthcare provider?  How can you help yourself remember what they tell you?