What a Woman Needs from Her Doctor

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Tips for Choosing a Doctor

Today’s conversation is an outgrowth of a paper I wrote for a Medical Journal. I was attempting to explain to my colleagues how women pick physicians and other providers of services in their lives. I wanted doctors to know that women talk to each other and pass the word around about whom to call among all their feminine networks. There are many ingredients that go into those female networks; they talk about how the office is decorated, how the staff is helpful, friendly, or receptive, they talk about the doctor and whether or not she listens to them and or talks down to them. Does the doctor take time with you to hear you and get to know you or do they just do clinical symptom management like a laboratory scientist?

Doctors are not traditionally chosen because they have empathy and compassion and good people skills, they are chosen for medical school because they score well on tests and have good grades. We want our doctors to be smart, and educated, but we also want them to be people oriented and have the interest, the commitment and the skill for listening to the patient and seeing the whole picture.

Of course, I also talk to my women friends and explain to them that they have some responsibility for making a visit with their doctor, to be productive and get well. I tell them to make a list in advance of the three things they particularly want their doctor to know about what concerns them on this visit. Prioritize that list and make sure that you don’t just wander around in a conversation that does not go anywhere and that you do not just answer the check list questions the doctor will ask. When the visit is finished, you should have a clear sense of what the doctor is going to do and what he/she wants you to do. You should have a clear picture of what will be the progression of your treatment and what outcomes or results the doctor expects if you do what they tell you.

Many patients have trouble being treated. If they are not able to follow the doctor’s instructions then they are less likely to get better. The outcomes may not be a direct result of the doctor’s choices and behaviors. They may be a result of the patients.

Brett and I also spend time today talking about the differences between men and women in how they approach medical situations. What do they know? How do they behave? What do they want? How are men and women different? I wanted to tell my doctor friends this information as well in my article. I wanted them to think about the differences in communicating with and treating men as opposed to women. It is worth the time and effort to understand and take advantage of these differences, but in order to do that you have to know what they are.

In this podcast you will hear my friend Brett tell me:
“Kathy I have known you for years and I know many of your patients and they have said to me over and over again that they love their visits with you because you give them a reason and an explanation for every symptom they have and every treatment you offer and a clear path to evaluate if they are getting better. There are specific markers and hooks that you identify and share with them that they feel so grounded by because they have that information. You are not just saying ‘I am the doctor, take two of these and call me in the morning or come back in two weeks and we will see.’

He says this because he has heard from his female clients that this is how they have experienced their visits with me. It is validation for me because it is what I am preaching to other doctors about the way women work.

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