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Kimberly

Nurse Kimberly Asks...

Part of living with MS is having regular visits with your healthcare provider, but how do you know if you’ve found the right one? Everyone is different, and you’ll have your own priorities when finding a healthcare provider. A good relationship with your doctor can make a big difference. What do you look for in a healthcare provider?

Stewart Answers...

How to know if your relationship with your HCP is working

The notion of having an extended relationship with a healthcare provider is a relatively new concept for me. Before I left the Army, I seldom saw the same provider more than twice. With reassignments, one of us was usually relocated within 18 months. That was great if the provider and I didn’t gel, but not so much for continuity of care, which can be critical for a person with a chronic condition like relapsing MS.

As a patient, one of the most frustrating things was getting the feeling the provider was watching the clock. I understood that there were other patients, but the doctor had an appointment with me, not other patients. If the doctor was running late, I shouldn’t have had to be the one to let them make up time. Also, it was very frustrating to go back and explain my medical history over and over while the provider looked through my records and spoke to the computer, not me. I viewed that type of environment as more of a medical assembly line in which I was just one more patient.

Although my primary doctor, whom I really like, is at a military facility, my neurologist is an MS specialist at a teaching hospital about an hour away. The thing that most impressed me about the neurology department was their team concept. Sometimes I saw the neurologist, sometimes her PA, and sometimes the pharmacist, a clinical pharmacist practitioner. Regardless of the individual I saw, it was readily apparent they were communicating as a team and were all familiar with my case, background, and treatment plan. It made me feel taken care of and reassured me I had a good relationship with everyone there.  

For me, selecting a provider was more than just the individual. It was the treatment team. In a healthcare provider, I was looking for an MS specialist with knowledge of established treatment options as well as emerging treatments. Gender was irrelevant to me, but the ability of a provider to listen to my concerns and speak to me in terms that I understand is paramount. Ideally, the provider would get to know me, my history, and my baseline, and would allocate time for questions and to determine treatment alternatives. The members of the treatment team (PAs, pharmacists, nurses, etc.) should get to know their patients and treat them as human beings. Collectively, I would look for the treatment team that inspired confidence, competence, and respect. 

Unfortunately, my neurologist recently relocated. I haven’t yet met her replacement, but I’m not worried. Why? Her office immediately reached out by email and telephone to let patients know of the change; currently scheduled appointments were retained, but they were to be followed by a visit with the new doctor. The new neurologist wanted to get to know her new patients, their conditions, history, and treatment. In short, she wanted to learn about her patients as human beings. Additionally, she has already ordered a blood workup for safety purposes to ensure there are no adverse effects from my relapsing MS medications. I’m looking forward to my next appointment.

See What Pam Says
Pam Answers...

How to know if your relationship with your HCP is working

Being aware of some of the invisible elements of your doctor’s appointment are crucial to your overall healthcare. I believe that the significance of your relationship with your healthcare provider cannot be emphasized enough. It is the unseen but “felt” component in your health care.

Aside from the number of different healthcare providers I see for my relapsing MS, I am also the mom of three grown children who each have their own doctor visits. Believe me, I’ve endured enough time in doctor’s offices to notice that there is a distinct rhythm that each has to offer. How you react to this rhythm could be good, as if you were listening to one of your favorite songs. Or it could be a bit unsettling, like fingernails on a chalkboard. You might not be able to put your finger on it, you just know something may be “off.”

Anticipating your doctor visit should never feel like a chore. Remember, this is your time to possibly tweak your treatments, give updates on your latest symptoms, and gather information on any new discoveries. You should experience the freedom to ask questions.

Unfortunately, I have been on office visits where I have felt as if I were just a number at the deli counter. If you are consistently feeling rushed, disrespected, or not being taken seriously, something is off key. I am here to tell you that it is OKAY to find a different healthcare provider who will harmonize with your melody.

If your gut is feeling some discord, don’t be afraid to request a second opinion. A doctor who has your best interest in mind will not take it personally. It may actually be a red flag if they get their feathers ruffled when you ask for a second opinion.

You’re allowed to change the station to find a better song. From my experience, when I feel comfortable and I sense the sincerity from my healthcare provider, that’s the secret to make beautiful music together.

See What Stewart Says
Kimberly

Nurse Kimberly Sums It Up

When you visit your doctor’s office, you should be treated like the individual person you are. A good healthcare provider listens to what you have to say and works with you to make the important decisions. Like Pam said, this is your time to make sure you’re doing what’s best for you. What’s most important is that you are comfortable with your doctor and that you’re able to have open, honest conversations about your treatment and how you are feeling.

And if you aren’t happy with your current healthcare provider, I encourage you to consider visiting other doctors in your area. You’ll be doing yourself a favor in the long run. As you learned from our bloggers, finding the right treatment team is an important part of your overall treatment. Read more about finding the right healthcare provider from bloggers Pam and Connie. What are your priorities in finding a healthcare provider who works for you? Share in the comments below!

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