In 30+ years of life, I have never had more than just a few months without at least one medical appointment. Usually, there seems to be just a few weeks between various appointments. (My case of Neurofibromatosis keeps them in business!) I have also been to countless appointments where I was not the patient.
Throughout all of these appointments, there is one thing that only the best-of-the best do: They treat the entire family.
They actively and thoughtfully ask the patient and everyone the patient brings:
How are you? What’s new?
Do you have any questions?
Do you understand what is happening?
They care about the medical issues but also life in general.
They acutely and patiently rely on the patient and the patient’s family and friends to make the appointment successful every step of the way. They understand that the patient may not recall every necessary detail or might be hesitate to mention so-and-so problem: Sometimes a patient needs someone to “tattle” on them.
They understand that patient is not a single entity. They are also humble enough to accept that the patient and their family are the “experts” in important ways.
They also make sure that the family is coping okay and makes sure they have any necessary information or resources.
Doctors, nurses, social workers, and other professionals who ignore the entire family are doing a disservice–think of all the missed opportunities to connect with people and to learn about the patient–and are ultimately being disrespectful.
And just to be clear, HIPA is not an issue when the patient actively brings people with them to the examining room.
Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda