Feature Archive

How to Talk to Your Doctor

If you want better treatment, you need to speak up.

WebMD Feature

April 10, 2000 (Los Angeles) -- If you are getting less attention and help from your doctor than you might like, the findings from a recent study might help you to improve the relationship -- especially if you are 65 or older.

The study, published in January in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, compared the interactions that older patients and younger patients had with their doctors. Researchers, with the consent of patients and doctors, videotaped the visits of 509 outpatients seen by medical residents in a clinic and then asked patients to complete questionnaires about the appointments.

Older patients -- those 65 and older -- had longer appointments, more return visits, and reported higher levels of satisfaction than the younger ones aged 18 to 64. Yet, even though the older patients had lengthier conversations with their doctors, they were given less counseling, asked their doctors fewer questions, had fewer discussions about their use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances, and were asked to change their unhealthy behaviors less often than the younger patients.

Be Active, Not Passive

There are several implications here for older people, says the study's lead author, Edward J. Callahan, PhD, associate director of the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care at the University of California, Davis, Medical School in Sacramento.