Make sure the providers you’re working with are really empowering you to achieve your health goals rather than either of you having the expectation that they will fix you or else you are at the mercy of what they think your health goals should be. It’s so easy for us to sit there in our white lab coat or in our office chair and tell you, “Just do this”, you know? And the thing is, it’s not always that simple in real life. That is the core of problems with doctor patient communication.
*This is a modified transcript of an episode from my podcast, The Nourished & Thriving show. This episode is titled “Feeling disappointed after doctor visits? Here’s why & what to do”, which you can listen to here.
*This is not medical advice.
The current state of healthcare: Problems with doctor patient communication
I’m going to say something that may feel a little bit shocking or controversial when you first hear it, so wait for it… But once you think about it for a minute, you’re going to totally agree with me. So here’s the statement: Going to multiple specialists and doctors isn’t always the best way to heal your gut.
Now this is a common cycle and loop that we get sucked into in our current state of healthcare (ahem… sickcare) where we go to the doctor, expect them to tell us what’s wrong with us, what disease we have that can be diagnosed, and what medication needs to be taken in order to treat that disease. But, it’s a broken way of thinking and therefore creates problems with doctor patient communication. If you’re going to doctor, after doctor, after doctor and they’re not finding something that’s treatable, and you’re still suffering, where does that leave you?
It leaves you in this awkward in-between space of feeling gaslighted with compassion. Yet, you’re without answers or solutions. Now I want to say, I do have great respect and esteem for doctors and the work that they do. They’re out there saving lives every single day. I believe that all healthcare providers have huge hearts and really, really care about their patients, clients and outcomes. However, the reality is doctors are trained to diagnose and treat diseases, and most often this also comes with them being highly specialized in certain narrow areas of the body. This is because our bodies are so complex, right? So they dig really, really deep and that knowledge is very important and very valuable. So if you go to a doctor and they’re not able to find a disease to diagnose, the kindest and most compassionate thing they have the ability to do is refer you to another specialist. There are exceptions, but I’m speaking in general terms here.
Here’s the real problem:
Most doctors, nurse practitioners, even dietitians who work in large facilities through insurance-based programs, see upwards of 40 patients every single day. That is a lot of people to see and to help in a day. Nurses who are caring for patients probably take care of even more than that. So if you take a 10 hour workday – because healthcare providers typically work very long hours – there’s about 15 minutes for each patient they see. And let me tell you, as a healthcare provider myself, there is no way that’s enough time to thoroughly review all of your medical history, labs, and notes from other providers – which if you’ve been struggling for a long time, you probably have a lot. Then once they review, it’d be nice to have a genuine conversation where you feel comfortable to open up and share. That all can’t happen in 10-15 minutes.
The second problem is doctors are typically highly specialized. They look at their specialty area of the body in a little bit of a vacuum, and they aren’t always thinking in terms of multiple systems all working together and impacting each other. They’re looking for a disease to diagnose within their system of specialty. Allergists are gonna look for immune-based diseases. Endocrinologists are looking for hormone-related diseases. If they suspect something outside of their specialty, they refer you out to somebody else. Before long, you kind of find yourself in the spiral of seeing doctor, after doctor, after doctor feeling frustrated, unheard, and having no more answers than you did when you started out. I’ve seen this happen and it’s one of the major problems with doctor patient communication.
So when should you go to your primary care physician?
It is a great idea if you are experiencing chronic digestive symptoms or any other ailment to go get checked out by a doctor and see if there is something to diagnose. If there is, take their treatment. But you can also work on returning your body to health through that process. If it’s a progressive disease – most chronic illnesses are progressive diseases – you can slow down that progression or speed it up depending on the lifestyle decisions that you’re making. This is the part that the doctors don’t typically have the bandwidth to support you with.
If you want to see what the doctor says, that is great. Doctor’s visits are another tool in our tool belt. But regardless of the results, whether the doctor finds something or not, you are going to need continued support after those results come in. Continued support is not something most doctor’s offices are typically set up to be able to provide you with. As you’re choosing the providers that you want to work with – yes, we have the privilege and right to choose what doctors, dietitians, and therapists we want to work with – I have a few tips to help you see the greatest success without feeling as much of that frustration going from one provider to the next.
Choosing the right healthcare provider and team for you
We each have our own unique gifts and abilities to share with the world, and we each have our own personalities and needs. We hear things differently and we need to hear things said to us in different ways. So just because somebody is a really, really excellent person at what they do, doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for you in this moment.
1. Evaluate how you and your provider are showing up to appointments
Make sure the providers you’re working with are really empowering you to achieve your health goals rather than either of you having the expectation that they will fix you or else you are at the mercy of what they think your health goals should be. It’s so easy for us to sit there in our white lab coat or in our office chair and tell you, “Just do this”, you know? And the thing is, it’s not always that simple in real life. So make sure you’re working with somebody who’s truly partnering with you.
2. Don’t settle for a generic doc if you need specialty help or a specialty team
If you’re struggling with chronic symptoms and you want to achieve true healing, it’s going to require more effort than just taking a medication alone. That’s kind of a tough pill to swallow – pun intended. You need someone who can help with medication when necessary, but who also can help you navigate the diet and lifestyle component of health. As an aside, I have a pacemaker myself, so I need modern medicine to keep me alive and ticking, but I also do everything I can in my own power to keep myself healthy. If you’re like me, you might need someone who takes the nutrition and lifestyle factors really seriously and has that knowledge and skill set to help you navigate those areas.
In some instances, this might be two different providers who collaborate. It’s common for someone to work with a GI doc and a dietitian, or an allergist and a dietitian. As long as they are able to collaborate, that’s serving you in the best way, because you’re getting two experts putting their heads together to help you.
3. Know that people and needs change over time
The third and final tip: Sometimes who you need as a provider changes over time as you grow and your needs change, and that’s okay. I, myself, have worked with several coaches and mentors while at different stages of my life and my business, and each of them have been so formative to me in that time. Each one had different gifts and skill sets to offer me. So, don’t expect one person to necessarily be the right person for you forever. Find someone who you connect with right now, versus someone who you maybe would’ve chosen three years ago. It’s a blessing and a gift to be able to choose who we want to help us with our healthcare.
Take some time now to pause and reflect on who exactly is on your team when it comes to getting your gut health on track. You need a team who are on your side of the court, who cheer you on and who support you and guide you along the way.
Addressing diet and lifestyle in healthcare
If you like the idea of focusing more intentionally on your diet and lifestyle, know this… It won’t be easy. It does require discipline, and it requires consistent effort on your part. Working on uncovering why you want this is so critical. For my clients in my Gut Rehab program, I recommend to establish a vision for your life and the idea of the legacy that you want to leave behind. Then you’re going to be a lot more motivated to consistently show up and to take the action.
Along with that, you’ll need to set in some structure and systems into your life so that you can give more time to those health priorities. Then you’ll be able to make space for other priorities, like traveling. For example, I’m working towards my personal bucket list trip to Finland, to stay in an Igloo hotel and see the Northern Lights. In order to make health a main priority, you’ll probably need to put other priorities on hold first before you have the vibrancy, freedom and health to be able to do these other things you want to do.
In conclusion: Problems with doctor patient communication
I hope this helped shed some light on problems with doctor patient communication and how to fix them. You are in control of your own health. Take responsibility and find the freedom that comes with good health!