Why Can’t I Just Trust My Doctor?

November 12, 2011

The older I get the more I am second guessing my physicians.

When I was a young girl, doctors were my heroes. 

Whenever my ear ached, my mom took me to my pediatrician, and within days medicine magically fixed my pain. When I had a hairline fracture on my left wrist at age 11, the bone doctor reset it perfectly, and I was doing cartwheels within two months.

But as I’ve gotten older, deep into my twenties and early thirties, I am having a harder time trusting all physicians completely. Even though most do a stellar job of treating me.

I guess I can think of a few reasons why this might be happening.

For starters, no two physicians are the same. Different physicians can interpret, for example, the same blood count reading to mean different things. I have even gotten different diagnoses for the same ailment.  

Another reason my trust is waning? I need to factcheck everything I read on the Internet with my doctors.

Just a few days ago I went to a doctor’s office and was prescribed a bunch of medications to manage a certain medical condition. My first action wasn’t to pick up my prescription and begin taking the drugs. No, I decided to head to a nearby Starbucks so I could pop open my laptop and search every single drug on the Internet and read the experiences of others who’d taken them.

Apparently, I'm not alone. Cam Marston, president of Generational Insights, said during an interview at the MGMA11 show in Las Vegas that younger patients tend to look up symptoms of their conditions online and arrive at the doctor’s office armed with questions.

Perhaps my hesitancy to embrace my prescribed medicine also has something to do with my most recent doctor being too busy to see me (a nurse went over my medications and treatment plan). Or perhaps it's because I am partially afraid of my treatment plan and don’t know how the medications will impact me.

Maybe my lack of complete trust has to do with my age. The older I get, the more I walk into medical offices and encounter physicians who look my age, if not younger. It seems weird to me that someone my age (in their 30s) would be practicing medicine. Isn’t that what a grownup does? Am I really as grown up as a doctor?!

I came across an interesting blog that sort of echoed some my sentiments on Yahoo’s Healthy Living site.

The writer “Babble” noted that “having ‘MD’ after your name doesn't make you an amazing expert.. Respect and trust have to be earned.” His blog also pointed out what the trusting little girl in me didn’t know at age 4, or age 11: Doctors can make mistakes. They are human.

So what can physicians do to earn the trust of their patients?

My first answer woudl be “make an appearance and actually explain to me exactly how my prescribed treatment plan will help me.” I could have used a little doctor-ly reassurance when I went to the doctor’s office the other day, with all due respect to the nurse who saw me. Perhaps physicians could give explanations as to why their peers might reach different conclusions, too.

What are you doing to build trust with your patients? Post your response below.