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Help Your Doctor Help You: How to Have a Healthy Doctor-Patient Relationship

Stephen is an online writer and former English teacher who is interested in sociology, economics, and literature.

What do you mean?

What do you mean?

The "Self-Diagnosis" Phenomenon

In Jerome K. Jerome's classic 1889 novel, "Three Men in a Boat" our narrator goes to the library to check the treatment for hay fever. Well before Google, you had to make a bit more effort to drive yourself sick with worry in those days.

While he is looking up hay fever, he inadvertently glances at other pages and then, with mounting horror, finds out the awful truth:

"Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seem to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid's knee."

Our patient's doctor prescribed beer and steak as a remedy for his imagined ills. Not a diet that many professionals would recommend these days, but it was a long time ago.

We might smile at this patient's gullibility but it's not so far-fetched. Many medical professionals are suspicious of the internet and patients' willingness to turn to websites for advice and information. See the link below.

Well, once in a while..

Well, once in a while..

How to Really Get Your Doctor's Goat

When Alex walked into her room, Doctor Gonzalez forced a smile but her heart sank. Alex was her worst patient. Alex, in one person, displayed all of the traits that made Gonzalez's job much more difficult than it should have been.

He would:

  • Give her an idealized version of his lifestyle. A lot of us do this. The doctor asks us about our habits and our answers are pitched so that they reflect what we think the doctor wants to hear. We downplay our bad habits and highlight the positive. Alex will claim that he smokes the occasional cigarette when really he gets through two packs a day. He regularly takes exercise, he says, when, in truth, he rarely stretches his legs except when he has to get another beer.
  • Refuse to follow instructions. Doctor Gonzalez will tell Alex to cut out cigarettes, take more exercise, and follow a healthy diet. He will agree but not do any of these things.
  • Second-guess her. Why Alex works in an office and not as a world-renowned physician is a mystery. He clearly knows a lot more than his doctor does. The internet is a great source of information and there are many reputable medical websites there. There is also a lot of well-meaning quackery. A doctor is an interpreter, she will consider her patient's symptoms and come to a decision about the best course to follow. This ability is honed by years of training and experience. Alex has the infuriating habit of diagnosing himself.
  • Often miss appointments. Whether he suffers from a bad memory or simply can't be bothered, Alex often doesn't turn up when he should.
Be honest!

Be honest!

Keep a Diary

There are countless places on the web that tell you what you should do to live a long and healthy life. Ads from companies selling vitamin-packed products and advice from well-meaning people who have the keys to paradise abound. All of these know what you should do, but only you know what you really do.

How to Keep a Medical Diary

Of course, some of us are not always perfectly honest even with ourselves but, with a little self-discipline, we might be able to keep a secret diary that logs all our daily habits. Include:

  • Your sleeping habits. What time you go to bed, get up, and how well you slept.
  • Your bathroom routine.
  • What you eat, how much, and when.
  • Your exercise routine.
  • In general, how you feel.

If your record is honest (Why not? You don't have to show it to anyone), you might find that there are some obvious habits that you might want to change.

We can then see what we might change and make adjustments that suit ourselves. It's not a bad idea–try it.

There is room for change.

There is room for change.

Good Luck

Thomas Edison once said:

"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patients in [the] care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease."

He was wrong, of course. It's not really a doctor's job to teach–that job should be left to others. A doctor can advise and a patient should listen. The internet can be a valuable source of information, and may even help your doctor by suggesting possibilities that she hadn't considered.

Your doctor is your ally. If you feel worried about anything, don't hesitate to see them.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.