How is your relationship with YOUR provider?

It’s February with its focus on Valentine’s Day, when considerable attention is devoted to relationships. So, this is great time to give some thought to an often-overlooked key relationship: one that can have a real impact on the quality of your life and is based on the trust necessary for revealing intimate details. I’m talking about your relationship with your health professional.

An almost sacred concept in Western Civilization is referred to as the “patient-physician relationship”. In fact, this is so important that every physician takes an oath – the Hippocratic Oath – which is focused on the ethics of this relationship. Being able to communicate – listening to, and being truly open and honest with, each other – is critical to your health and to regaining health after illnesses or injuries have occurred. Here are some questions that I want you to consider as you evaluate the quality of your relationship and, if necessary, work to improve it.

First, does your doctor listen to you? I mean really listen to you? In other words, does he or she seem interested in what you have to say about your life, your symptoms and your health related challenges? If not, then you need to bring your concerns to their attention. This is not the time to be shy.

Second, do you feel comfortable opening up to your physician? Is this a person that you feel you can trust with the most intimate parts of your life? If not, it may be time to find one with whom you can be completely comfortable.

Finally, do you understand what your doctor says to you? Health and medical care often involves complex concepts and challenging decisions. Does your physician communicate in language you understand and can they make the concepts understandable for you? Does he or she actually seem interested in having a co-equal relationship with you when it comes to choices and decisions about your health? And if you don’t understand something, are you comfortable asking questions until you do?

I encourage you to give some real thought to these questions and remember that you have to do your part, to ensure that it’s a comfortable, enriching and healthy one. After all, it’s your life.