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Creating a Mutually Beneficial Partnership with Your Parent's Doctor

by Edward Leigh, Patient Communications Expert
February 08, 2013

Question: I have been accompanying my mother for her doctor’s appointments. I would like to participate fully in the decision-making but I feel like the doctor over-rides that preference. How can I handle this?

Answer: Thank you for your writing. The patient-doctor relationship is a partnership; both parties come together and find a mutually-agreed solution. It sounds like your mother’s doctor is discounting your role in the partnership.

The ultimate treatment decisions for your mother are based on the approval of your mother and her family members. I assume your mother agrees with your role as her advocate.

Here are some key tips on improving the relationship with physicians:

-- The ABC Rule, which is “Always Be Courteous.” Some physicians could be quite challenging, but it is vital we always stay pleasant. When I have an issue with another healthcare professional, I always start out by saying, “With all due respect, I feel …” Also, courteous does not mean passive; you can be nice and still get the information you need.

-- Do your research. Physicians are science-oriented research people. If you feel another treatment would be better, have documentation that backs up your views, such as articles from reputable medical journals. Saying, “My neighbor told me eating radishes will help with ……” will not be taken seriously.

If a pleasant demeanor and research documentation doesn’t work, it may be time to seek another physician. You have every right to be part of the decision-making process. I took my own mother to a physician who insisted on “her way or no way.” We went to another doctor who was empathic and a team player; together we agreed on a plan.

Good luck to you and your mother.

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Edward Leigh, MA, focuses on helping patients and healthcare professionals effectively communicate with each other. Excellent communication skills dramatically enhance patient satisfaction and safety. He presents high-energy and informative programs for hospitals, healthcare associations, medical practices, government organizations and universities. He is also an in-demand consultant and coach. He has a master’s degree in health education.

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