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Talking with Your Doctor

February, 2011
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talk2doctore589afe69cacPutting your child’s healthcare in the hands of another person is not a simple task. You can, however, have a rewarding relationship with your child’s pediatrician. This is best accomplished by establishing trust in your physician and ensuring that you have a good understanding of one another. Here are some suggestions for what you can do to improve communication with your pediatrician to help maintain trust and understanding in your patient-doctor relationship.


Volunteer Information

We are taught during our training that the patient’s history is one of the most important aspects when making a diagnosis. This is especially true when you have a child that is not comfortable with the examination and cries through most of it, making the examination very unreliable. Therefore, it is helpful for parents to provide as much information about the child’s complaints and symptoms as well as any previous history of illnesses, including hospitalizations, surgeries, and medications taken (including herbal supplements and Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments). If the child’s complaint is chronic, such as long-standing headaches or stomachaches, keeping a diary describing the pain and including the dates and times of the complaints can be very useful before your see the physician.

It may also be helpful to tell your doctor some of your child’s likes and dislikes. If your doctor proposes a diet or lifestyle change, however temporary, she can take your child’s preferences into consideration.


Getting More Information

“Why?” is probably the most important question you should ask a doctor. Before you leave the clinic, it is important that you understand what the diagnosis is, what medications have been given as well as any further instructions. More importantly, it is crucial that you understand why the diagnosis has been made and the treatment given. We know that patient compliance improves with better understanding of the diagnosis and treatment. We strongly encourage patients to question the doctor if the information given is not clear. Don’t hesitate to ask for further explanation. And, if there is a language barrier, do not hesitate to ask for a translator.


Challenging the Information

Many people research health issues on the Internet or by using other resources. We’ve heard “I’ve read somewhere that…” many times. We like patients and parents to bring up any information they have obtained, even if it challenges the doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Often, information on the internet does not come from reliable sources. If you show your doctor the information you’ve read, your doctor can help you determine whether the information is trustworthy.

Despite a good line of communication, you may feel uncomfortable with the treatment you are receiving and/or disagree with the physician. If this is the situation and you cannot resolve it by speaking to your physician, you can request to speak to a supervisor, Seek a second opinion, or ask to be referred to a specialist.

Finally, it is important that you search for a doctor whom you can relate to. There is nothing wrong with “shopping around” for a doctor. This is preferably done before your child becomes ill. You can make an appointment to meet a doctor with or without your child to simply get to know them and see if their attitudes are similar to your own. Once you have chosen a pediatrician, bringing your child to see him/her for regular checks. Consistent consultations ensure that your child receives the most informed medical attention.

Finally, I highly encourage you to keep open lines of communication with your pediatrician. Right from the beginning of your relationship, request your physician’s contact information – office number, e-mail, and mobile phone if they are comfortable sharing it. Good communication is the key to helping us help you keep your family healthy.

Of course, if you have any questions or if you want to chat, feel free to e-mail me at melissa.varma@ufh.com.cn, or call United Family Shunyi Clinic at (10) 8046 5432.


By Dr. Melissa Varma, 

Pediatrician at Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics


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