Effectively Speaking up, at the Doctor as Patient

November 30, 2018


Have you or a family member ever felt confused, rushed, or like a number after going to the doctor? If so, you're not alone. So many people experience these feelings every day, but hopefully by the time you're done reading this you'll be ready to speak up at your next appointment.


First off, I know there are some AMAZING medical providers/support staff who invest so much time and care into their patients; but just like every other profession, there are some "NOT so amazing" providers/support staff. Medical professionals have to juggle a LOT. That's why I try to be empathetic, (whether I'm in the doctor's office working or there as a patient). However, all the empathy in the world doesn't justify some of the things I've seen and experienced in the medical setting. 


I've personally experienced the difficulty of speaking up at the doctor, even when I felt like something wasn't right. A disconnect between the provider and patient can be a crack in the foundation of the partnership. 


Listed below are possible causes of disconnects between providers and patients:

-a lack of cultural competency when treating certain patient populations

-over scheduling of patients which, leads to rushed appointments

-provider burnout, which negatively impacts everything else 


Here are a few tips, based on my work and personal experience:




Choose a medical provider that you are comfortable with. When going to see a new provider, look up their online ratings to see other patients' experiences with him/her. After having seen your provider, pay attention to how your feel after you leave. Some providers, while good, are not necessarily the best fit for the patient. It’s a relationship; and it shouldn’t be difficult...or feel “off”. The doctor is the expert in the situation; but, your body is yours. You have valuable information to be considered during the treatment discussion as well.


When holding your provider accountable, it is important that you first start with yourself. If your provider gives you a regimen, please adhere to it as prescribed. If you are non-compliant to your regimen, then it automatically discounts any complaint you have of your medical treatment. ***I do realize that strict compliance doesn't 100% guarantee desired health outcomes, but following your prescribed regimen (from the very beginning) gives you credibility whenever you do feel the need to speak up.


Have any questions for your provider written down to take with you to your appointment. Providers generally have 15-30 minute patient slots (really closer to 15 minutes), so the more concise you are about your concerns, the better. If you have the questions already written down, you can pass them to your provider, or you can just read them off verbatim to get straight to the point. This lessens the chances of he/she “leaving you hanging” with unanswered questions. 


Have someone you trust speak on your behalf. You might be worried about speaking up for yourself. If so, it might ease your concern if you have a loved one, a friend, or patient advocate (when available) with you at your appointment, so that they may speak on your behalf. I’ve seen this to be very effective, especially if that support person has a medical work background.


Don't leave your appointment without a clear understanding of what is going on. When I was a newer Integrated Care clinician, I'd sometimes witness patients just...sit there, without as much as two words outside of "mmhmm" and "okay" during their appointment. Although I was new, I knew something just didn't feel right. I almost wanted to speak for them, but of course I knew that was not my place. Over time, the more I worked in the medical space, the more I felt the need to research how I could contribute changing this dynamic.


At the end of the day, always explore your options if you don't feel it's a good fit. This, here, is the most straight to the point out of all the tips: If your provider and you just can't meet eye to eye on identified concerns, find another provider...simple as that. Don’t forget to research the new one, too. 




While these tips apply to everyone, I feel them especially relevant to disadvantaged populations. They face so many barriers when trying to acquire healthcare, that sometimes they tend to think that just SOME care is better than nothing. The problem with this is that it perpetuates a REACTIVE mindset...which is not good. I cannot express how important it is for a person to be an ACTIVE part of his/her treatment. Do not just "take what you're given".


Now... I know some of you may reading this like: Ok, thanks for the "news" lol. That doesn't take away the validity of the point. Voicing concerns, when appropriate, makes a difference. 


Ask questions, take notes, and pay attention to your gut.






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