Are you someone who calls your doctor for every little ailment? Perhaps you are the grin-and-bear-it type who only goes if absolutely necessary. Or, are you someone who avoids the doctor at all costs — even when it’s detrimental to your health?
What’s a healthier approach to your relationship with your doctor? Collaboration is key, according to a which found that “stronger physician-patient relationships are correlated with improved patient outcomes.”
In the past, many people viewed doctors as all-knowing authoritarians, making them seem intimidating and unapproachable. However, for millennials, communication is king. As this generation occupies the roles of both doctor and patient, they understand the benefits of taking a collaborative, team-like approach to healthcare.
“I view my role with patients as not only clinician or technician but as a teacher and collaborator,” said Dr. Vonda Wright, founder of Women’s Health Conversations. “Did you know that the word ‘doctor’ is originally derived from ‘teacher’? My approach has always been to gather the patient’s data, frame their options for care via their needs, data, place in life and goals for care and present them with all options, from doing nothing to conservative care to surgery and then give them my opinion as to which of the options I recommend as their doctor. This approach helps people feel listened to and creates a collaborative relationship that ultimately benefits the patient most.”
Trust is a key component to this relationship. Without it, healthcare providers can only do their job part way. Patients need to feel relaxed, comfortable and confident that their doctor will listen to them and meet them where they are.
“This is what people are really looking for, in particular, millennials. Instead of telling me all the things I’m doing wrong, let’s start with a strengths-based approach and how we can build from there,” said Natalie Bencivenga, LSW, MSW and “Ask Natalie” advice columnist. “When you approach patients with empathy and a sense of optimism, you will get better results because the patient feels invested and motivated.”
When patients understand what’s expected of them and see how new habits could create better outcomes, they will be more likely to keep up with the process and adhere to a prescribed treatment plan. By customizing health plans and specific goals, the doctor-patient relationship can find itself on solid ground and be rooted in mutual respect, leading to better outcomes.