This is your life—you deserve to get what you need from your doctor. If you aren’t getting your questions answered when you go for an appointment, what’s the point of being there? Right? Your physical and emotional well-being are important, and if both of those needs are not being met at your doctor’s office, you may need to speak up or make some drastic changes—maybe even both.
Think of it this way: If your car needed repair, you wouldn’t take it to just any random mechanic to be fixed: You’d ask your friends for referrals, you’d check online reviews, and you’d have a conversation with the mechanic to be sure he or she can communicate with you about what repairs are required and why.
You should expect at least as much from your health care provider as you do your mechanic. When you leave your appointment, you should honestly feel that you were able to discuss your concerns openly and get your questions answered. If not, you can empower yourself to get what you need from your current provider or find a new one.
So, here are eight signs that you may not be getting what you need from your current health care provider and might need to start shopping around:
- You are being treated like a man. It’s no secret that, in the past, medicine has been dominated by men. Drug trials using animals were typically done with all-male specimens, and clinical trials were done using—you guessed it—all male candidates. So it’s no surprise that dosage amounts for drugs have been based on the “average male.” The good news is that researchers are now changing gears and looking at how both men and women react to various drugs, treatments, diseases, and side effects. The bad news is that the gender divide lingers. If you don’t feel like you are being heard, and your doctor is talking to you like a bowling buddy or a fragile flower, he or she is probably not sensitive to your needs as a woman.
- You wait weeks (maybe even months) to get an appointment. While this may mean that he or she is an excellent physician, it really doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get in the door. If she or he has such an extensive patient list and you aren’t a priority, it will be in your best interest to look for someone else. The same is true if you have to wait an hour (or two) every time you see the doctor or you have to call five times to get your test results.
- Your doctor is uncomfortable talking about certain topics. If you have questions about topics like sexual intimacy, bowel movements, or sex toys, and your doctor is reluctant to discuss any of them, your appointment may be a waste of your time. If you can’t be honest with your physician, your level of care may be compromised. You may be reluctant to name over-the-counter supplements your doctor’s implied are foolish, which could mean your doctor can’t fully assess interactions with your prescribed meds. If you find yourself leaving your appointments with too many unanswered questions, it might be time to make a change.
- Your doctor writes you a prescription before you finish your first sentence. If you are in the examining room for only two minutes and the doctor already has paper and pen in hand, beware! Sometimes, in the press of time and the desire to provide a solution, a doctor will short-change the conversation that leads to a confident diagnosis.
- Something just doesn’t feel right. It can be something as simple as a personality conflict or a communication style. It’s okay to trust a feeling of discomfort you have. If you’re not comfortable in the relationship, you’re less likely to be as open and honest as you need to be to forge a strong patient-physician partnership for managing your health.
- The office staff makes your life difficult. Are you on hold for 20 minutes (or more) when you call the office? Is the office staff rude when you finally get through? You deserve to be treated better than that! First, describe your experience to your provider; he or she can’t solve the problem if it’s invisible to them. If things don’t improve, decide whether dealing with the office is making you avoid addressing health issues—and if it is, consider alternatives.
- Your doctor talks down to you. Your questions are valid and important. The last thing you need when seeking care for a problem is condescension. If it’s implied that you’re not likely to understand your own issues and treatment, assert yourself and remind your doctor that you are ultimately your own health manager.
- Your doctor likes to work alone. Especially if you are a complicated case, your doctor may need to coordinate with your other health care providers. If he or she is reluctant or won’t communicate with others involved with your care, it may be time to make a switch.
Going to your doctor may never be “fun,” but it doesn’t need to cause you added stress and anxiety. If you don’t feel like you’re getting the care you need—including for symptoms of menopause— from your health care provider, ask yourself if you need to make a change. It may be the best thing you could do for yourself—and you do deserve care!
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.