What Your Doctor Says Vs What Your Doctor Really Means
Last updated: February 2019
I've been having a lot of conversations with doctors recently and receiving many of those 'follow-up' letters through the post. I'm not sure if it's just an NHS thing but after seeing a gastro-doctor here, I'll receive a helpful summary of the conversation through my letterbox. So far, so good. Except the problem is, that more often than not, I don't receive the letter until about a month after the appointment and the words on the page don't quite match up to what I can recall. Don't you think it would be so much easier if doctors just said what they actually meant? Without the jargon and politeness? Here's my handy (very tongue-in-cheek) guide to translating...
When your tests are normal...
What your doctor says: 'Despite patient's digestive symptoms, there is no evidence of disease activity in recent blood tests so it's likely they are experiencing IBS-type symptoms instead. A follow-up appointment in three months.
What your doctor really means: They're moaning they don't feel well but what am I supposed to do about it when their blood tests are normal?! I'm not interested until I see that CRP hit double figures. Go do some yoga or something.
When you're flaring...
What your doctor says: Colonoscopy shows evidence of significant activity which warrants further treatment.
What your doctor really means: I've seen your colon and let me tell you, it ain't pretty. We need medication stat!
When you don't agree with your doctor...
What your doctor says: The patient was resistant to discuss the proposed plan at length and expressed concern regarding my suggestions. I have advised the patient to think carefully before considering alternatives.
What your doctor really means: I have no idea why but the patient didn't agree with my fantastic ideas. I obviously know best so I will just wait here for them to change their mind.
When you keep pushing for more tests...
What your doctor says: At the patient's absolute insistence, I have made arrangements for an MRI to be undertaken. The current symptoms do not warrant this but it will hopefully put the patient at ease.
What your doctor really means: To shut the patient up, I have arranged an MRI as I can't take them going on about their symptoms anymore. I am 99.9% sure that I will be proven right and nothing will be wrong, but at least they will stop going on about it and I'll get some peace and quiet.
When they haven't listened to a word you have said...
(Author's note: This one actually happened to me guys!)
You at consultation:I'd really like to get a second opinion on this and further tests; I feel as if you're not listening to my symptoms and my insistence the medication isn't working. Is there anyone else I can talk to?
Doctor at consultation: Absolutely. I will take your file to a team of doctors and discuss your case at length then arrange a follow-up meeting to discuss and decide an outcome with you together. I can arrange for another doctor in our team to meet with you.
What your doctor then says: Further to our discussion, I have decided the best course is to keep you on your current medication. If new symptoms arise then do call our IBD team otherwise I will see you in three months.
What your doctor means: I know you asked me to get a second opinion, but I obviously know best. I have made an appointment for you in three months. As on reflection, I have realized I am better than all the other doctors on the team so there is no point referring you.
This is all tongue-in-cheek and not in anyway trying to take away the amazing work many of our medical teams do. But would it kill for just a bit more transparency? I'd love to know your thoughts!
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