Have you ever been annoyed with a patient that ‘knows-it-all’? Can patients know too much? How can being empowered help or hinder the relationship? Apparently there’s a training programmed aimed at doctors to help them deal with “difficult patients,” and it’s been causing a stir…
We all get those patients who’ve been googling and diagnosing their symptoms and then asking question after question but when does it get too much. Is it when the patient considers themselves an expert in their disease although their medical knowledge is limited? Is it when patients who tell you how to diagnose and worse treat their DrGoogle diagnosis? How can we manage the expectations of our patients and empower them to take responsibility of their healthcare without them getting in the way.
How can an empowered patient know too much?
We’ve all met THAT patient. They show up with ten pages of information they’ve downloaded off the internet, and some of it is from questionable website sources, often bordering on propaganda.
When you’ve only got 10-20 minutes with the patient, you may feel frustrated having to read, interpret, and explain what they’ve downloaded, especially if it goes against the treatment plan you’ve carefully crafted.
But That’s Your Job
We are teachers, healers, educators. It is our JOB to help our patients navigate their medical decisions with compassion, patience, and an open mind no matter how frustrating it can be.
Our patients know their bodies better than we will ever know. We may have gone to school for a decade to learn about the human body, but we do not live in the body of our patients. Only they have the power to trust their intuition and know what is best for them. And we are thwarting the process if we get in the way of that self-healing process.
Education Is Empowering
When you are sick especially with a rare disease, you may wind up knowing more about your illness than your doctor does. It’s your body after all. Your doctor may not have time to research and pull every article ever published about your rare condition, but you may be able to do that, and the internet makes it easier than ever to do so.
This may be something you end up doing in your clinic, working one-on-one with patients in extended sessions helping them navigate the scientific literature, answering their questions about what they’ve read on the internet, doing your own research and translating it into plain language for them in order to help them make the best decisions possible, advocating on their behalf and contacting their GP or co-managing with other practitioners, if necessary, listening to their intuitive hunches, and empowering them to learn the tools necessary to help and heal themselves.
This service is desperately needed because so many doctors are dismissive of an empowered patient who wants to fully understand her health condition so they can make the best choice possible for themselves.
An Empowered Choice
You ideal patient is educated, empowered, and also accepts responsibility for their own health, rather than handing their power over to someone else and saying, “Fix me” because patients know their own bodies and when given all the facts and advice can make their own decisions based on their own gut instinct.