I took part in a twitter chat yesterday about patient-centricity. Several definitions were discussed, but they all described patient-centricity as a health system where the patient is the focus of care, where the patient’s world is taken into consideration, where collaboration is key.

It’s an important concept that those of us with chronic illnesses eventually come to appreciate (it’s not necessarily intuitive!).

Over the years I’ve become more comfortable with being my own advocate, speaking up, and building relationships with my doctors. It’s certainly not a one-way street. Doctors need to also be the advocate, listen and build the relationship.

I’ve ‘dumped’ doctors before because I felt bullied, I didn’t feel listened to, and I didn’t feel they were working with/for me. I kept information from them about my health because I didn’t trust them. It’s no fun (or productive) to have your concerns dismissed and feel that someone is talking down to you.

In a New York Times article this week, a doctor speaks to this issue of patients “doctor-shopping” and said that the patient is the driver of their health and that doctors should support the patient seeking what’s best for them. reflexes-148133_1280I say that’s part of it, but collaboration is key! Relationship-building speaks to collaboration, understanding and respect.

Doctors are not the only healthcare professionals with whom is it important to build relationships! Nurses, phlebotomists, receptionists, pharmacists…really anyone who is involved in your care! With chronic illnesses such as lupus, you will be in and out of medical facilities, likely meeting the same people over and over again. You never know when you will need their support and advocacy.

As patients, dealing with all of the different doctors, appointments, ER stays, medications (and on and on) can be overwhelming. But for me, I’ve felt that having great relationships (or at least respectful ones) takes the sting out of the constant poking and prodding, running around and keeping track of everything.

Just a few things:

  1. Relationships are not built overnight. They need to be nurtured.
  2. If you are afraid of your healthcare provider, think about why you feel that way and either express those feelings to your doctor (using “I” statements) or make a move. There’s no point in hanging on to a poor relationship.
  3. Follow-up, don’t pester. Another key to building a relationship…no one wants a crazy stalker.

Here’s a short interview with a doctor about his perspective on how we can be better patients.