Think about your last doctor’s office visit. How much time did you spend with the doctor? Chances are you spent between 13 and 28 minutes face to face with your healthcare provider. And how about the quality of care you received? Did your doctor listen to your concerns, or just brush them off? Did you leave feeling better about your health, or worse? 

The healthcare system is fundamentally flawed. Doctors are focused on seeing the largest number of patients, and not on outcomes. Doctors see so many patients each day that they become a blur of faces. This might be okay for a relatively healthy person who has a run of the mill UTI. But if your health concern is potentially serious you don’t have time to waste on being dismissed! You need treatment! 

Studies show that women are more likely to have their symptoms dismissed than men. Women are often told they are “being dramatic.” They are told that the pain they’re feeling is normal. They are denied pain medication. Another study showed the average doctor listens to their patient for just 11 seconds! 

How can you take control of your doctor visits and get the care you need? Keep reading. 

Come Prepared 

It’s much harder for your doctor to dismiss your symptoms if you have evidence. Take daily notes detailing your symptoms. Include details about when your symptoms get better or worse. Keep a food diary and note your reaction to what you’re eating. Records from other doctors. Talk about your family history. Written materials make it easier to identify patterns that may lead to a diagnosis. Make sure you don’t hand over original documents, make copies for your doctor. 

Do Research 

We’ve all WebMD’d ourselves into thinking we have cancer. But you don’t have to be a doctor to do some basic research about your symptoms. Take a look at the websites of The Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School, and The Cleveland Clinic. Research the kinds of tests that may help in diagnosing your condition. Information is power and it can help you advocate for yourself if you are being dismissed.

The Appointment Doesn’t Have To End When It’s Over

If you come to the end of your visit and still haven’t discussed all of your symptoms, get your doctor’s digits. Email, text, call your doctor if you still need help. You can keep them updated on any changes in your condition so they get a better picture of what you’re dealing with. The symptoms you’re dealing with last longer than fifteen minutes, so should your access to a doctor. 

The Doctor Is Not In Charge 

Because the power dynamic is shifted in the doctor’s favor, they are often deferred to. They’re the expert, right? Of course, doctors should be respected, but so should you. You are the customer. You have the right to have your doctor’s full attention for the duration of the visit you’re paying for. If you were If you are in the middle of describing your symptoms and your doctor interrupts you, call them out. A simple “Please let me finish what I was saying” reminds your doctor that what you are saying is important. If all of your preparation hasn’t gotten the results you need, talk about it. Get straight to the point and tell your doctor you feel like you aren’t being listened to. Call out any dismissive behaviors like eye-rolling or hand waving. It seems like the doctor is in charge. But they’re not. This is your time, Don’t let them brush off any new symptoms as nothing. 

You’re An Expert Too 

Sure, doctors go to school for 15 years, but that doesn’t mean they know everything. Remember that you are the expert when it comes to your own body. You are living through and experiencing the symptoms, not your doctor. Doctors will often shrug off symptoms as “normal” even though they don’t feel normal to you. If your symptoms are dismissed but there’s a nagging voice in the back of your head that says there’s a problem, speak up! Don’t be afraid to share your expert opinion about your own body. 

Dump Your Doctor 

It might seem like a nuclear move to ditch your doctor. But if the doctor-patient relationship isn’t working, it’s time at least one of you admit it. You have no obligation to keep seeing a doctor that doesn’t help you. It may not be easy to find a new doctor. You might have to dump a few doctors before you find the right fit, but keep fighting the good fight. Your health is worth it. 

It’s an uphill battle getting a busy doctor to listen to you, but it’s a battle worth fighting. The real win comes when you find a treatment that works for you and you start to feel like yourself again.