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50+: Live Better, Longer

Breaking Up With Your Doctor

Is your doctor-patient relationship on the rocks? Find out if it's time to move on.
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When Your Styles Don’t Mesh continued...

“I have no anger toward the doctor,” Brown-Tatum writes. “Her treatment style became more of a personality conflict. At the end of the day, the patient must feel 100% comfortable and confident with her doctor.”

Cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong switched oncologists because he wasn't comfortable with the language the first doctor used to describe his treatment ("I'm going to hit you with chemo... kill you and then bring you back to life."), Gary M. Reisfield, MD, and George R. Wilson III, MD, of the University of Florida Health Science Center wrote in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2004. Armstrong found another oncologist whose approach better suited him.

"There are times when it's just not a good chemistry between people," Blackall says. "You don't hit it off. That's not because they're a bad doctor or you're a difficult patient. It's because your styles are so different you're just not compatible."

 

Partnering With Your Doctor

Medical training and accreditation programs have added communication skills training courses, so the emphasis on communicating with patients today has come a long way from the traditional "doctor knows best" model.

"We’re not talking about an 'either-or,'" Makoul says. "A patient wouldn't want a great communicator over somebody who is excellent technically and clinically. The point is to be excellent across the board; patients are looking for the whole package."

Blackall points out that there is emerging research showing that patients with a chronic disease like diabetes who work collaboratively with their physicians may actually do better medically.

"Let's face it, the stakes are high," Blackall says. "People come in and they're sick and they're suffering. It's very emotional stuff. When patients become upset with their doctor, a common reason is that they're frightened. They're scared they're getting worse and the doctor's not going to be able to help them."

"Know yourself," Blackall says. "Everyone has different styles when it comes to coping with illness. Be clear with your doctors about what you need from them."

 

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