Many people with IBS report at least one past negative experience with a physician or other medical provider. Unfortunately, because IBS is such a complex disorder that is not completely understood or respected, even by many health care professionals, some people with IBS will have many bad interactions of this sort. However, positive experiences are possible if both the provider and patient are open to effective communication. Over the years, studies have shown that a good relationship is an important factor in improved outcomes for those who have IBS.
This blog often discusses systems advocacy issues focused on long-term changes in society for those with IBS. However, part of learning to advocate for broad IBS community concerns starts with knowing how to advocate well for our own immediate needs. Several reputable websites in the digestive or chronic illness community have plenty of good quality articles and multimedia offering various perspectives on communicating with health care providers, so the links will be highlighted here.
The University of North Carolina Center for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders has just begun circulating a video of a lecture to fellow medical professionals recently presented by Douglas Drossman, MD, FACG, the Center’s co-founder and recently retired co-director, who is newly in private practice at Drossman Gastroenterology in Chapel Hill. Dr. Drossman has a particular expertise and interest in doctor-patient communications as they relate to functional GI disorders. The Center website also includes an earlier article on the subject by Dr. Drossman and Donna D. Swantkowski, Med among its downloadable educational handouts. Lastly, the video portion of the October 2011 UNC online chat on doctor-patient relationships with Albena Halpert, MD of Boston Medical Center can be viewed in the Center’s chat archive.
IFFGD has an IBS-specific page on its website on working with your physician. This page also links to other IFFGD pages on how to find a doctor, a worksheet that can be used for doctor visits, and what to do if you decide to end a relationship with a medical provider who is not a good match for you. The website of the Digestive Health Alliance, the grassroots arm of IFFGD, provides an online directory of professionals in the U.S. and other countries who express a specialization or interest in functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS. Finally, IFFGD publication #221, Medical History: How to Help Your Doctor Help You, by W. Grant Thompson, MD, FRCPC of the University of Ottawa in Canada, is newly updated for 2012. It and Fact Sheet #116, Doctor-Patient Communication by Kevin W. Olden, MD and Fact Sheet #142, How to Talk to Your Doctor– The Doctor’s Perspective by Patricia L. Raymond, MD, FACP, FACG are all available for download in IFFGD’s publications library.
The Gastrointestinal Society in Canada offers an article, Making the Most of a Visit to Your Doctor, on its website.
On the IBS Impact advocacy page, scroll down to near the bottom of the page to find two additional links on this topic. One is to an article written by Pauline Salvucci, who is described on Healing Well, the chronic illness site on which the piece appears, as a retired medical family therapist and person with a chronic illness. That linked Healing Well page also has several videos on effective communication. The second link on the IBS Impact advocacy page is to Barbara Bradley Bolen, PhD, clinical psychologist and About.com IBS Guide, who discusses the effect of doctors’ attitudes on effective care and links to some of her other posts and reader responses on the subject.
IBS Impact thanks the above entities for providing these resources to the IBS community and hopes that some of this information will be helpful to readers of this blog.