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A relationship with your doctor can improve your health

Patient secrets

This article was last updated on July 21, 2021. 

Can you talk to your doctor? About anything? One study shows that patients who have a good relationship with their doctor have better health outcomes External Site.

Logically, this makes sense. After all, if you have a personal doctor you know and trust, you’ll be more likely to schedule appointments, speak openly and honestly, listen to advice, and follow through on treatment.

While the study shows the impact is “modest” overall, it provides valid, scientific weight to the idea that doctor-patient relationships are important. As part of the research, doctors went through training to improve how they interacted with patients. What were the results of this improved experience between the doctors and patients? Obese and diabetic patients lost more weight. Arthritis patients reported less pain. People with high blood pressure did a better job of lowering their numbers.

“I may sound like a broken record,” says Dr. Tim Gutshall, chief medical officer at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

“But having a doctor you know and trust is one of the most important things you can do for your health.”

According to Gutshall, the smartest patients know they play a key role in the relationship. “It’s a two-way street. You need to do your part. For it to work, you need to be your own health care advocate.”

Improve your relationship with your doctor with these tips:

  1. Understand your health plan.

    Know the basics of your health plan and how it works. Don’t leave it up to your doctor to know the ins and outs. Log in or register for myWellmark® to have all your benefit information at your fingertips.

  2. Share your full health history and concerns.

    Be open, honest, focused, and specific. When did your problem start? Have your symptoms improved or gotten worse? Have you tried treatments?

  3. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

    If you don’t understand something, ask questions until you do.

  4. Track your health tests yourself.

    What are they for and what will the test results show? When can you expect those results? Is there another option to get the same information? Should you be using a patient portal? Talk to your doctor about the best option for you.

  5. Come to your appointment prepared.

    Bring a list of your current medications. During your appointment, write down instructions, so you’ll remember them later. If you think you might need help understanding your doctor's recommendations, bring a friend or family member with you. The more prepared you are, the better your doctor will be able to understand your health concerns and come up with a helpful treatment plan. 

  6. Watch out for red flags and talk about them with your doctor.

    Are your symptoms common (fatigue or sore throat) but your diagnosis rare? Have your symptoms not improved with treatment? Is your diagnosis based on one test only (maybe the results were wrong)? Talk openly about your symptoms with your doctor and the possibility of a misdiagnosis.

  7. If necessary, get a second opinion.

    If your questions aren’t being answered, see another doctor for another opinion.

Choosing and using your personal doctor

Your personal, or family, doctor knows your medical history and is the medical professional you go to with your health concerns. When choosing the best personal doctor for you, consider these tips and log in or register for myWellmark to make sure the doctor and facility you are considering is in your health plan network.