The Importance of A Doctor-Patient Relationship
The importance of a close relationship between MS patients and their healthcare providers (HCPs) cannot be over emphasized. The benefits of such a relationship far exceed the obvious of getting prescription refills and simply ordering tests.
The unpredictability of MS is most disconcerting for patients. The constancy of a patient–HCP relationship can help neutralize the anxiety associated with the erratic nature of the condition. Moreover, many patients do not have the resources or information readily available to fully understand the condition, which can lead to considerable fear of the unknown. However, access to a knowledgeable, informative physician can help make the often confusing and technical medical information easier to understand.
Additionally, the exacerbations of MS including attacks of weakness, visual loss or other problems can present a formidable challenge to patients who feel that they lack a strategy to deal with such attacks. When a patient trusts their physician, there is a sense of comfort knowing that they are simply a phone call away to address any and all of their concerns and symptoms.
A strong alliance with my MS patients helps to counter feelings of isolation and helplessness. Some of my patients feel demoralized and frustrated when they develop symptoms that cannot be observed by others such as pain, fatigue, and cognitive, memory and concentration changes. Having a close relationship with my patients and recognizing these changes, I’m able to provide support and understanding, and I can offer suggestions and treatments to alleviate or overcome some of their symptoms.
Treatment options can also be overwhelming for MS patients. MS is a condition that requires complex decision-making skills at times, including selecting the choice of initial treatment which has become quite complicated with the development of new, multiple therapies. A proper patient-physician relationship is of paramount importance so patients feel comfortable asking any questions and working with their doctors to come up with a treatment plan and therapy that is best suited for them. In fact, Jack and I have come to form a trusting relationship over the course of his treatment. We work together to determine the treatment plan that is best for him and his lifestyle, and he and I speak often to address any questions or concerns he has concerning his MS.
Finally, it is most important that patients maximize their office visits. This is the time they have the uninterrupted attention of their doctors. I recommend jotting down one's questions on a piece of paper to make sure that all concerns are addressed, and nothing is overlooked during the appointment. Patients should also leave the doctor’s office with a follow-up appointment already scheduled. Doctor visits should be scheduled approximately every 3 to 6 months, but with a solid patient-doctor relationship, a patient should feel comfortable calling for any concerns, questions or emergency visits. Solidifying a proper relationship with a doctor is certainly worth the effort and will prove beneficial when it comes to optimizing a patient’s prognosis.