Dos and don'ts every patient should follow before visiting a doctor

The good doctor-patient relationship is the keystone to successful outcome of treatment. It is well-established that a cordial relationship between a patient and his or her doctor leads to significantly better outcome of treatment, which is indeed the bottom line. The key to this relationship is trust and faith. Undoubtedly, faith is an important ingredient in the process of healing. Any disruption of this faith can only adversely affect the final outcome of treatment. In recent years, there has been a steady erosion and decline of the patient-doctor relationship. This fractured relationship, needless to say, is highly detrimental to all doctors. But so, is it to patients? As has been said earlier, a patient-doctor relationship based on mutual trust and confidence is critical to the delivery of optimal quality of health care. It is therefore incumbent upon all – doctors as well as patients—to fix this fractured relationship.


The objective of this communication is to help patients optimize the value of a medical consultation. Whenever you go to a doctor follow these Dos and Don’ts.

1. The first thing a doctor will do is to take your history. This is the most important part of the consultation as in many cases a diagnosis can be reached by the mere history. Hence, giving an accurate history to the doctor will help both you and the doctor. List out your complaints preferably in a chronological order, you can write this out and take with you. Also note down any specific queries/ doubts that you have so you do not forget to ask.

2. After going into the details of your current complaint, the doctor will enquire into your past history. Do not think it is a waste of your time and resent it as a lot of it may have a bearing to your present illness. Carry with you your previous investigation reports, records of previous operations or hospital admissions, if any.

3. Be truthful while giving your past history. Remember your conversation with the doctor is a ‘privileged’ communication and is confidential. Do not conceal any past medical history merely because you think it may not have relevance to your present illness, or because you perceive it as a social stigma e.g. History of tuberculosis, epilepsy, etc. Many a patient (and doctor!) has suffered since vital past history was concealed by the patient. Thus, honesty is the best policy! Also do not fail to inform the doctor about your drug allergies when asked.

4. The doctor will also ask you your social or personal history such as history of smoking, alcohol, taking addictive drugs, etc. Be honest. It will only help.

5. After examining you the doctor will make a provisional clinical diagnosis which will be confirmed by doing appropriate investigations so as to reach the final diagnosis.

6. Do ask the doctor all the questions to clarify your doubts, including the question, “Doctor what do you think is wrong with me?”

7. If you don’t understand the doctor’s handwriting on his prescription, ask him to clarify.

8. Make follow-up visits as advised by the doctor

9. Your health and well-being following a medical consultation is a collaborative effort between you and your doctor. This is crucial to the final outcome of treatment. Also, remember that trust and faith are important ingredients in the process of healing. Go to a doctor only if you trust him.

10. A little effort on the part of the patient, as outlined above, can help him or her receive high quality health care.

[The writer is a Senior Surgeon, Founder Member AMC, President Federation of AMC INDIA (FAMCI)]

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