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1 Question, 5 Answers: What Are Doctors Like as Patients?

All doctors have been patients at some point in their lives. From spending time on both sides of the stethoscope, they have a unique perspective on healthcare interactions. So how do doctors, nurses and other providers approach medical care differently than we do, and what have they learned about being a patient since donning their scrubs and white coats? Five healthcare pros sound off.


Joe Ciavarro Jr.

Senior physician assistant, Interventional Radiology, New York City

Being a PA has taught me that when I go to see my doctor, I need to be as prepared as possible. As a provider, it is very frustrating to have patients who do not know why they are there to see me and have brought no information along with them. I keep a running list of all my care providers and their contact information, as well as medications with dosing, prior testing results and dates. Having this information ready makes the best use of my short time with the doctor.

When there is an important or difficult issue to discuss, appointments should be made early in the day and early in the week, to allow ample time for follow-up phone calls and scheduling of procedures or referrals.

Mikhail Varshavski

Family medicine physician, Overlook Medical Center, Summit, New Jersey

Always ask about the risks and benefits of both undergoing and skipping a treatment. Often doctors assume that you want treatment and factor that into their recommendation. This isn’t always ideal, especially when watchful waiting or reassurance could be reasonable options.

Ask how much experience a doctor has in treating your condition and/or performing the procedure at hand. Generally this is a question commonly given to surgeons, as techniques and technology are advancing at a rapid pace. You’ll want to be informed if this is the doctor’s first time utilizing a new piece of equipment or performing a procedure.

Do comparison price-shopping. For nonurgent matters, I will always use some apps to find lower cost options. Studies have shown prices can vary wildly among facilities for no justified reason. For example, an MRI can cost $350 or $2,500 in facilities just miles apart.

If your insurance carrier denies a claim or you are uninsured, always dispute your bill and request discounts, as this is what the insurance company regularly do for themselves, often getting a 50 percent to 75 percent discount.

Nadia Masood

Anaesthetist, London

Being a doctor has taught me humility. I am reminded that despite the wonderful advances in the world of medicine, there is still so much we don’t understand, and we can’t fix everything. Being a patient or a relative of a patient, I also know to remember that doctors are always doing their best for every patient, and are giving up so much of their own lives to do so.

Hazel Wallace

The Food Medic, London
BSc Medical Sciences, MBBCh

In addition to trying to figure out your diagnosis/what’s wrong with you, your doctor also wants to know what your expectations are from the consultation. For example, are you hoping to receive medication or are you simply looking for reassurance? As most appointments with medical practitioners are relatively short, I make sure to explain my symptoms and then express my concerns and expectations so that my doctor can manage me in the best, most time-effective way.

Joseph Cruise

Plastic surgeon, Newport Beach, California

Forming a relationship with your doctor is the most important thing a patient can do to obtain good medical care. I find it helpful to have a doctor that is an expert in their field, that is courteous, respectful and able to give advice. During your consultation, ask questions and for advice and treatment recommendations.

During a consultation, and depending on the procedure, 3D computer imaging is often used to help patients visualize what they can expect as a result of their surgery. The use of computer imaging is helpful to demonstrate what is and what is not possible.

The most important thing is to be honest. Patient trust is paramount. I would want information provided to me as a patient that is concise with suggestions so I can make an informed decision on my treatment.

Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.

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