Over 50% of women ages 25-49 “routinely withhold information” from their medical providers, according to a Columbia University study.
That number remains steady for teens as well, with slightly less than half lying or keeping information from their doctors regarding “risky behaviors” (such as sex and substance use), and 25% avoiding the doctor’s office altogether to keep from discussing those same behaviors. This is a huge issue because, “If your provider is unaware of your health history, then you are not going to get your health needs met,” said Beth Grant, BSN, RN, PHN, to HelloFlo. “Disclosing as much health information as you can gives your provider the tools to work with in getting you on the right path to health.”
This is also why it is hugely important to have a doctor you trust. If you have confidence in your doctor’s abilities and know you can speak openly to them, you are more likely to disclose all symptoms you might be facing (both internally and externally), which in turn will lead to better treatment. To find out how to choose a medical provider you can trust, and why that trust is so important, keep reading.
Starting the Search
Asking your family and friends who they go to for their health needs is a great place to start. There are also a multitude of websites that perform similarly to Yelp, but for doctors; patients can rate their healthcare providers and leave comments on their experience with them. Personally, I’d be more comfortable talking to people I know IRL about their experiences with doctors, but looking at the ratings on the websites can introduce you to doctors you may not know of in your area, as well as potentially provide a broader perspective on that doctor’s care.
Beth also recommends scheduling an appointment to interview your new provider. “If you don’t feel like you have a good comfort level and feeling of trust in the interviewing process with the provider, then you have every right to move on and find someone else,” she said. During the interview, Beth suggests telling the doctor what you are looking for in a healthcare provider, and “any special concerns that you want addressed in your care.” Make sure the doctor can address those needs, and that you feel comfortable with their way of doing so. “You have to advocate for your own health!” Beth added.
If you find yourself having a difficult time opening up to your medical provider (even if you do like them) due to embarrassment, shame, or any other reason, remember that the job of a doctor is to support you, not to judge you. “Most medical providers I know went into the medical profession, not to judge their patients behaviors, but because they wanted to help others,” said Beth. They’ve also likely already seen your issue; there’s not much doctors and nurses have never heard or seen from their patients.
Another key thing to remember when talking to your doctor is that they are bound to a law of confidentiality, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA protects patients’ privacy and makes it illegal for health providers to share their patients’ personal information, such as medical records, billing information, conversations you have had with the provider, and more.
For the Future
When I was talking to Beth for this article, I was most comforted by her response on why it is best to tell your doctor everything, even if the topic is considered taboo or embarrassing. When you trust your provider, she said, “You’re more likely to take their recommended treatment, follow their recommended plan of care and get preventative health screenings (e.g. paps and breast exams). Just having a person you can trust to talk to about your health makes a healthier you.” Look for a provider who is willing to create a treatment plan with you. If you feel rushed, or like the doctor is just searching for the quickest, most short-term fix (for an issue that isn’t so short-term), you may want to keep looking.
A good medical provider can arm you with “the tools, resources and support you need to attain a healthy, happy, and productive life,” said Beth. Have you found your ideal healthcare provider? If so, how did you find them? Share in the comments below.