5 Tips for Addressing Dismissive Behavior in a Healthcare Setting

Getting annual wellness checks is one of the most important preventive measures we can do to maintain good health. For many, however, the experience can be nerve-wrecking and that nervousness is often compounded when we feel like our concerns are not addressed during a visit. In the modern day healthcare setting, providers are often overwhelmed and overworked; however as a patient, you have a right to have your questions answered and to leave with clarity about your health status. The next time you feel like you are being dismissed in a healthcare situation, use these 5 tips to ensure your needs are met:

1. Identify the behavior
If this is your first visit, begin by identifying the behavior. If you recognize that you are being interrupted or ignored, but you want to continue with the doctor, try to clarify what you understand already to make the most of the visit. We wish we could tell you to get another provider after your first visit, but that’s not always easy or an option nowadays. The more specialized the physician, the more difficult this may be. Try to make the most of your time and the money that has already been spent.

2. Reach an agreement on how to spend time at the beginning of the appointment
Anticipate spending 15 to 20 minutes per visit, and be pleasantly surprised if it lasts longer. If your clinic has a patient portal or a data secure email address that allows you to send your questions ahead of your visit, send them in. If there’s an option, and you feel comfortable using this form of technology, consider a HIPAA-secure telehealth visit. Telehealth visits can save time and money while getting your needs met. If telehealth is not an option, write down the questions and concerns you’d like to address beforehand. Your list can help your doctor focus on what is important to you.

3. Anticipate that one visit or even one doctor’s perspective may not be enough
It’s common to feel uneasy when you don’t get all of your questions answered during a doctor’s visit. If after a few visits you are still unsatisfied with the information your provider has given you on a particular topic, it’s time to start considering other options. Offer feedback to your provider about what you expect during your visit. If you don’t feel comfortable with their response and you decide to end the engagement, be sure to get a copy of your medical records before switching providers.

4. Bring someone you trust to your next visit
Inviting a trusted loved one to your visit can help change the tone and flow of the visit. It can help to have someone else listening and asking follow-up questions, especially if there is a potential language barrier or if you are feeling anxious about the visit.

5. Use Women’s Digital Health tools and guidance
We are building a tool chest to address these healthcare challenges through education and awareness of new technologies you can use to improve your healthcare experience. We are also building a community with many who may have had similar challenges. Share this article if you know someone dealing with some of these challenges.


  • Brandi Sinkfield

    Dr. Brandi, is a Board-Certified Anesthesiologist, who was inspired by her mother, a registered nurse who graduated with a degree in information technology. Through tough love and support from her father, extended family, and friends she attended Case Western Medical School and received her M.D. She completed residency training at Cleveland Clinic and dual fellowship training at Stanford Anesthesiology in Perioperative Management and Digital Health. Growing up she experienced the lack of transparency, shame and secrecy surrounding women’s health and body confidence driving her to imagine a pathway for her own daughter and other women to access information that empowers them and inspires confidence.