10 Things You Should Expect From Your Doctor

As a patient, you have rights

View over patient's shoulder

You just waited two hours for a doctor who’s running late. Once in the office, the doctor zips through a jargon-filled speech, orders a test, writes a prescription and sends you on your way. You leave in a cloud of confusion, realizing that you never even asked a question.

Don’t accept this. It’s the worst-case scenario of patient care. Your experience as a patient matters more than ever — not only because we want you to be well but also because evidence and outcomes are driving healthcare like never before.

You have rights, including the right to participate in your care rather than being a passive patient. Start with these 10 expectations. Make sure your doctor:

1. Understands where you are

Your doctor should not just lecture you about losing weight, quitting smoking or undertaking some other lifestyle change. He or she should understand where you are in the process. Are you ready to work on a weight-loss plan? Have you gotten serious about quitting tobacco? Your willingness makes a difference. Without it, success is unlikely.

“If you say you want a second opinion and your doctor balks, it’s not a good sign. You have a right to a second opinion.”

Advertising Policy

David Longworth, MD

Chairman, Medicine Institute

2. Values your time — and respects you

Remember the waiting room example above? Unless there’s been an emergency, it shouldn’t happen. Doctors and staff should run an office that values your time and plans accordingly. Also, if you say you want a second opinion and your doctor balks, it’s not a good sign. You have a right to a second opinion, and your doctor should respect that.

3.  Makes decisions with you, not for you

Doctors should recognize that you know your body and your life, and you must be a part of any decisions. If your doctor orders a test that makes you uneasy, talk it through until you understand the implications. If your doctor offers a treatment you don’t understand, ask questions until you do.

4. Actively listens

We all know what a rushed appointment feels like. It’s not beneficial to anyone involved. Your care team should always listen to you without making you feel rushed — and without interrupting you. But be prepared for a doctor to challenge your assumptions; part of active listening is active responding. 

5. Looks at the big picture

Great physicians want to know what’s happening beyond your health. When they ask about your personal life, they’re not just making small talk. Knowing about depression, domestic problems and stress factors is important. All of these things can affect your health. Medicine is about more than just what symptoms you have on the day of an appointment.

Advertising Policy

6. Keeps money in mind

This is especially important if you’re paying out of your pocket. Doctors should take your financial situation and insurance coverage into account so you aren’t hit with bills you can’t afford. If you have a question about whether a certain test or procedure is necessary or covered, do not be afraid to ask.

 7. Tells you what things mean

Jargon presents a big problem during an appointment. Your doctor should always take the time to explain what terms mean, and whether they refer to conditions, tests, treatments or something else. If you don’t understand, keep your doctor talking until you do.

8. Gives you access to your records

You should not have to wait weeks for test results — and then have to prompt a doctor’s office to receive them. Electronic health records are not perfect, but they do make communication and access simpler than ever. Your doctor should make sure you have access to the information you need.

9. Is transparent

When it comes to your treatment, avoid mysteries. Your doctor’s office should inform you about how much every aspect of care will cost. Your doctor should be open about his or her experience treating your condition, as well as the success rates — and risk — of any potential procedures.

10. Encourages you to bring help

If everything above is done properly, you will have a lot of information to absorb. It’s smart to bring a spouse, other loved one or friend to your appointments. This advocate can take notes, ask questions and look out for your rights and needs in general. Your doctor should not only allow this; your doctor should encourage it.

Advertising Policy

David Longworth, MD

David Longworth, MD, is Chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Medicine Institute, Medical Director of Health Hub from Cleveland Clinic and a respected expert in infectious diseases.
Advertising Policy
Advertising Policy
  • Diann L. Nelson-Houser

    CC, thank you. These are all excellent points. BUT–I am a Family Nurse Practitioner. Your physician-centric language is appalling. The same standards hold to me! A significant amount of health care in our state is provided by Advanced Practice Registered Nurses. PLEASE– make your language, and your attitude, more provider-neutral! Diann L. Nelson Houser, President, Ohio Association of Advanced Practice Nurses

    • http://www.galichia.com Peter J. Macander, M.D., FACC

      Dr. Longworth is writing in reference to doctors, not nurse practitioners. The two are NOT the same, despite what you may think.

      • ravensfan24

        Dr. Macander,
        I am neither a doctor nor a nurse practitioner and my impression is that the big ego belongs to you.
        There was absolutely nothing wrong with Ms. Nelson-Houser wanting NP’s to be included in the language. They do treat patients. You are correct in saying they are not the same…I’m sure they have to deal with arrogant doctors like yourself on a regular basis.
        Check yourself.

        • Peter J. Macander, M.D., FACC

          You may think whatever you wish. Dr. Longworth writes from a doctor’s perspective – that is all. He does not deserve to be attacked by Ms. Nelson-Houser for “physician-centric” language and his writing is NOT “appalling”. It deals with a physician-patient relationship. Ms Nelson-Houser’s commentary is out-of-line. If she feels NPs MUST be included in this discussion, she may wish to write her own article on it rather than berate Dr. Longworth who writes well. You are NO LESS arrogant in your own response toward those with whom you disagree but do not even know, ravensfan24.

  • David Genender

    Very good information. All of my encounters with CCF medical staff on every level has been very professional and has met or exceeded the expectations listed in the article.

    • Julie Tsirambidis

      Have to agree here – this post is very beneficial to the general public and likely widely distributed. Thus, as a former primary care NP for CCF, I too am disappointed to see the lack of inclusion of these providers. The term PCP is now open to physicians and NPs. While there are certainly differences in training – there are many people who choose an NP as their primary provider . The patient has that choice and to completely ignore that when in fact you employ over 800-900 in your system is disheartening . I’m certain it wasn’t intentional however we are increasingly providing expert care in the region.

  • Sujan Swearingen

    What planet is this guy from? Americans are generally not competent enough to understand the word no. People in this country kill one another all the time for money and politics. There are so many factors not addressed here.

  • riseofnations

    Doctors need to start diagnosing by intellectually review labs, research diseases and what diagnostics to use. Instead they are doing nothing as charge such high fees as minimum wage workers are expected and do so much in $7.25. Doctors are becoming the laziest out there, so many do not even do accurate records, makes me wonder how even pass school!! Doctors should be showing patients their records to ENSURE accuracy. Innacurate records could kill a patient and block equal rights access to care!! This overusing of mental labels and psychdrugs VS diagnosing physical is out of control, very irresponaible, and DISCRIMINATES MANY FEMALES!! This causes many to get delayed or no ER care even for strokes and heart attacks!!! Psych drugs have very dangerous symptoms that can cause strokes, heart attacks, leukopenia, brain damage, and further discriminations and block equao rts access!! Want to label mental then go work with the violent populations doing crimes daily, as the mental resources are not available for the violent as being overused by drs overlabelling patients that just need physical dx and care!! And make sure to give ones their records anf labs vs ones having to ask and ask for months, and many times stilo not receive. And stop overbilling and upcofe billing. Bunch of thieves in the medical communitty, using Medicare and Medicaid like an atm machine as doing lousy care and innacurate records. Think this is harsh, well walk in the patients shoes that pay you as luves have been ruined by libel in records and no physical dx!! Thousands are in so many dif patient groups that have been victims of this horrid care!! Federal Rare Disease Centers this year stated lack of dx is a national crisis!! Stop accepting more patients if cant do your job right!! Need more money then get a second job like the majority of others have to do!! Boo hoo..cant even take time to dx vert sick that still have to work and run their homes all alone!! GET SOME PERSPECTIVE DRS AND GROW UP AND DO YOUR JOB CORRECTLY AND HONESTLY AND THOROUGHLY!! OVER prescribe and overlabelling psych drugs and disorders vs caring to find physical as DISCRIMINATING ESP FEMALE PATIENTS pulling heavier burdens than you!!! Go work in the violent communities if you so eager to prescribe psych drugs and labels as daily violence is out of control, harming even so many children and babiies. Stop overusing the limited mental health resources in your patirnts needing physical ex and care, as the mental resources for violent is running out of resources for the violent. Every chouce has an array of affects on the patient and the community!!! Start beingbaccountable and do your jobs correctly. So many lazy whining drs out there doing substandard crap jobs that harm the patients now and future in so many ways. Med commun is out of controp. Start adhere to patient rights, codes of conduct, which INCLUDE REPORTING PEERS THAT ARE VIOLATING!! GROW UP DRS..YOUR PROFESSION HAS BECOME A JOKE!!

  • Anne H Harbin

    Great advice. My husband and I go to Emory since my Hip replacement there 2 years ago. He was so impressed with my experience, he changed his pulmonary care to physician there….and his breathing has come up 2 points to 92. we both are very happy with our results…and when appointments are set up, we can spend a fun weekend in Atlanta since we live 100 miles away. Could not ask for better treatment!

  • bethmoore

    I bring a friend on my b appts, especially the heart Dr ones. She gets them to give me better care.

  • dianesef

    Doctors must also realize that unlike days gone by, patients have more access to more information on their bodies and illnesses than ever before. Rather than scoff at the patient who has Googled his or her disease or disorder, they should work with the patient to sort out fact from fiction in a constructive, non-condescending way. As a health educator, I believe doctors need to do a better job of promoting healthy behaviors – letting patients know that with some work they may be able to lower their cholesterol or blood pressure naturally. They may just say, “Give me the pill,” but at least it was offered as an option. And they should be offered resources to help them live a healthier life – many people don’t even know where to start. And doctor, if you are obese, or smell of cigarette smoke, it’s really, really hard for patients to swallow your advice on health. Just sayin’

  • Natasha cole

    I am a kidney patient, along with other illnesses. I can tell you my healthcare has change. Doctors treat you like you are on a assembly line as if we all are the same and have the same needs. You wait in the office all that time and spend less time with the doctor. Sometimes they make changes in your care and don,t even tell you. My doctor told me to get over my kidney problem. Doctors seem to have not bedside manner or care. More often with the ones who have more then one office. What you wrote help a lot to know someone gets it. Thanks for what you have said about what you should expect from any doctors.