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What to Do When Your Doctor Does Not Believe You

Advice from doctors, about doctors.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Do you feel ignored or dismissed by your doctor? "Studies show that 80% of diagnoses can be made based on your history alone. Yet, doctors these days spend less and less time listening," says Leana Wen, MD. 'Cookbook medicine' is prevalent, with doctors resorting to checklists of yes/no questions rather than really listening to what's going on with you. You have to make sure that your concerns are addressed—and even before that, to make sure your story is heard." Here's what to do when your doctor doesn't believe you, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Be Organized

Mature businesswoman working on her laptop in the financial district.

It might be helpful to write down exactly what you need addressed before you see the doctor. "Be clear about what you need from your appointment," says Pamela Wible, MD. "Make a comprehensive list of all the issues you want to discuss — and your ideal outcomes for each. Patients who are proactive and organized can cover twice as much in an appointment compared with patients who are passive and unprepared."


Be Polite


Try to remain polite and respectful to your doctor even when frustrated. "Your doctor is a professional, and is probably trying her best to help you," says Dr. Wen. "Your story has to be heard and your concerns addressed, but make sure you present your points in a respectful manner. This will ensure that a solid doctor-patient relationship is present, and is critical to the partnership you need to establish.


Don't Be Afraid To Interrupt

happy doctor with patient

"If you get the sense that your concerns are being brushed over, interject, 'Excuse me, doctor, I have tried to answer all your questions, but I am still not certain my concerns have been addressed. Can you please help me understand why it is that I have been feeling fatigued and short of breath for the last two weeks?' and so on," says Dr. Wen. "You can take charge of the conversation at that point. It's your body and your duty to advocate for yourself if you don't feel like your story has been understood and your concerns have been addressed."


Be Direct

Female doctor consults mature patient during the quarantine for coronavirus.

"If you prefer not to take drugs, state that immediately so your doctor doesn't go on a detour discussing medications," says Dr. Wible. "If you want a referral to a physical therapist, say so upfront. Just want reassurance, ask for it. You're more likely to get your needs met quickly by stating your intentions directly."


Get a New Doctor

Doctor with glucometer and insulin pen device talking to male patient at medical office in hospital.

When all else fails—it might be time to get a new doctor.  "You are putting your most valuable possession in your doctor's hands: your life. Why would you entrust it to someone who you don't have a good relationship with?" says Linda Girgis, MD. "Like in any other profession, there are good and bad doctors. And like anything else in life, there are personalities that just clash. You need a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with. Would you buy a car from a salesman you thought was pulling something over on you? No, you would go to the car dealer down the road. You may not always agree with your doctor, and that is OK. But, if you do not like your doctor, you need a new one."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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