If you want better results from your healthcare provider, don’t go it alone. A study done at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that patients are more satisfied with their health care when they bring a companion along. I know that was the case for me.
Before my open-heart surgery, I had an appointment to meet my surgeon, discuss the surgery, and the new valve I would be receiving. I made a list of the questions I wanted to ask during the visit and discussed them with my friend, who planned to accompany me. He began asking me questions about the surgeon, which I couldn’t answer. I searched the internet and found that the surgeon was the second-best valve surgeon in the US. That was good enough for me.
During the visit, with my friend by my side and my list of questions in hand, I walked into the office of the head cardiologist at the Boston University Medical Center. As I shook his hand and sat down, I was overwhelmed by the display of heart valves lined up on his desk. And we had not started talking yet.
As the doctor began discussing my condition, the valve he recommended, and the surgery, my mind swirled around a saw cutting through my ribcage and a scalpel opening my heart, which he called “a bag of blood”. I could not get a single question out of my mouth. My friend could, though. He started by asking, “As the second-best valve surgeon, why should you do the surgery?”
After Doctor Shemin answered that question, my friend asked all the other questions on my list. Because he was neither stressed, nor overwhelmed, my friend remembered everything that was discussed during the visit so we could
I am so grateful for having that friend with me during my visit and while I was in the hospital for the surgery. Here are the five reasons you should have someone accompany you to your doctor’s visit.
- To keep your nerves at bay. When the doctor is discussing life-changing conditions and/or procedures, you can easily become overwhelmed by worst-case scenarios. Fight or flight emotions will increase your stress and it will be difficult to focus on what is being said.
- To help you communicate your symptoms. When you arrive at the doctor’s office, you may feel fine. You may be on medication that is working, so symptoms you experienced are gone or minimized. Your friend can relate those symptoms to your doctor so she has a more complete picture of your health.
- To ask important questions. Before your visit, make a list of the things you need to know and the questions to ask. Discuss your list with the person who will accompany you to the visit and add questions, if necessary. Then, before the visit make sure you both have a copy of your list.
- To take notes to record your doctor’s recommendations. As the doctor makes recommendations, you may be trying to digest your diagnosis and prognosis. Once your mind goes there, you will not remember much else. Your advocate can take notes and discuss them with you after your stress levels come back down.
- Help you to with next steps. If there are follow up appointments, new prescriptions, or devices such as sugar monitors or heating pads, your friend can stay involved until you have everything you need to put you on the path to better health and healing.
When you invite your friend to accompany you to the doctor, discuss how and when you would like them to intervene on your behalf. You don’t want them to take over the appointment, and you may need some time alone with your doctor. Make a plan, but keep it flexible.