Vitality - Healthy Aging NewsletterSpring 2012

Wellness Begins With a Conversation

A strong relationship between you and your doctor is the first step to ensuring good health.

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If you can communicate honestly and are comfortable discussing the most sensitive topics, you will get the most out of every visit.

You may even find, like Margaret Tompkins from Tukwila, that you look forward to your appointments.

A Group Health Cooperative member since her teens, Tompkins jokes that she used to enjoy discussing baseball with one of her former doctors so much that she'd consider feigning an illness. "I have a good relationship with my current Group Health doctor as well," she says. "Dr. Philp is a good listener, which is very important. I feel I can bring up anything that's bothering me and that gives me great peace of mind."

Doctors at Group Health encourage patients to take part in their own health care because research shows that those who actively participate are healthier. "In addition to medical issues and concerns, let your doctor know what's important to you, and what you want out of life," says Matt Handley, MD, an associate medical director for Group Health Physicians who also practices at the Capitol Hill Campus in Seattle. "The more we can talk about what matters to you — really matters — the better we can support you in reaching all of your goals, and the better your care will be."

It's especially important for older adults to have a strong, continuous relationship with their doctor so changes can be tracked over the years.

Communication Is a Two-Way Street

Once you begin taking an active role in your health care, you may notice that conversations with your doctor are more reciprocal.

When Clark Crawford from Hansville had heart surgery in 2003, he and his primary care doctor made many decisions together. "We'd talk it over, he'd make suggestions, and then we'd decide on a course of action," he says. "I appreciated the interaction because it gave me some control over my health."

Jerome Norlander from Tacoma had a similar experience when he wanted to reduce the amount of medication he was taking. "My doctor and I discussed it at length and reached a solution that worked for both of us," he says. "I was pleased that she was willing to listen to my preferences, rather than just hand me her decision."

Prepare for Your Appointment

Before your next visit, write down the issues you'd like to discuss. This can be helpful because you may forget something, or mistakenly think that a concern is not important enough to mention.

To get the most out of your appointment, you can print and fill out this form so you don't forget anything you want to discuss with your doctor.
Checklist for Your Visit (PDF).

"If you're in doubt, please speak up because we can't help you with issues that we don't know exist," says Dr. Handley. "We hope you feel free to share your thoughts, feelings, and questions with us, and that this becomes a trusted relationship.

Crawford thinks a successful partnership comes down to finding the right doctor. "It's important to find someone that you connect with," he says. "When you do, you'll be able to trust them with any private matter."

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