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There’s a fine line between being a difficult patient and throwing away your personal needs. While it’s important to heed a professional’s advice, it’s also important for patients to be emotionally and physically comfortable with prescribed treatments.

Of course, there are extreme cases where your best option is your only option, and you should absolutely defer to your doctor. However, in most cases, there are various options available. All you must do is ask.

Healthcare professionals generally give the option they think is best based on the limited knowledge they glean from a medical rundown. They aren’t privy to the specifics of your day-to-day and can only hazard guesses at what’s going through your mind. This can lead to recommendations that go against a patient’s values.

For example, a doctor might recommend a self-injection treatment to a patient with a fear of needles.

This would obviously lead to great mental distress and a failure to administer the medication regularly. Similar situations can be easily avoided if both parties consistently discuss the patient’s values from the beginning.

Defining Patient Values

Patient Values might sound like a moralistic term, but it encompasses much more than just a belief system. It refers to any factor that affects how a patient feels about their healthcare options. This includes the obvious things like religion and finances, but also extends to more nuanced considerations.

After all, what’s most important to leading a happy life varies from person to person. Some value professional progress over a painless treatment plan. Some value religious doctrine over a quick recovery. It’s necessary for all parties to consider the effects that each option will have on the patient.

During your Health Appointment

“You’re perfectly healthy.”

Words that every patient wants to hear from their doctor. It assuages the fear that there’s some unknown illness ravishing their body.

On the flip side, what if your doctor says you’re healthy when YOU think there’s a problem? The more reserved among us might just play along and go home. They’ll continue to notice the same problem but are reassured by the fact that a trained professional didn’t bother to mention it.

In these cases, it’s likely the problem is affecting an important aspect of your life that your doctor hasn’t considered. Perhaps your grip strength is weaker than usual but still within the average range. If you’re an avid weightlifter, then this is a huge detriment that doesn’t apply to the standard person.

Taking an active role in health appointments and bringing up your personal values informs your caretakers on what they should be watching out for. It also opens new lines of dialogue and comfort that could uncover further improvements to your care.

Treatment Planning

On a surface level, you’d think that all the responsibility of communicating patient values falls on patients themselves. Sounds like a no brainer. They’re the ones with the most knowledge on the subject matter.

However, there’s a mountain of context the patient needs before they can even respond. Neither party has the time to listen to every one of the patient’s values. No, what the patient must communicate are the values related to the options that the caregiver provides.

This requires in-depth explanations from the healthcare professional concerning every step of the treatment process. The patient needs to know why certain tests are necessary, what side effects are possible, and what their responsibilities are, alongside many other things.

Discharge Requirements

Medical fields all use some metric to identify when a patient is ready to be released. This can be anything from a reduced fever to the ability to use the restroom on your own. While these are generally fine indicators of health, a patient could have lingering concerns that these standards don’t account for.

Speak with your physician and learn their discharge requirements. Have them explain any expected post-care side effects ahead of time to see if they conflict with any of your patient values.

There’s also the possibility that you’re being monitored for reasons you don’t agree with even when you’ve regained your health. Comprehensive discussion over the discharge process will prevent any unnecessary tests and additions to your bill.

Examples of Patient Values

Understanding various types of patient values can push along conversations between patients and professionals. It’s like how talking points in a speech provide enough focus to move from point to point.

Socioeconomic Status

It should come to no surprise that people living in poverty experience higher mortality rates than their more well-off counterparts. Some treatment options that are prescribed as the “norm” might be out of reach for some.

Even a subsidized subscription could break the bank depending on the individual. Discussing your financial position with your physician from the get-go will help them recommend more affordable options.

Avoiding Suffering

Dreading pain and discomfort are completely natural. It serves as both a motivating and deterring value for treatment decisions. Some people go through with medical procedures to prevent future pain while some avoid treatment from fear of it. There are even unfortunate cases where patients choose death rather than extending their agony.

As far as patient values go, this might be the most relatable and the most important for healthcare professionals to keep in mind. Nobody wants to suffer, so it’s imperative that caregivers use extreme caution when recommending a treatment that involves sharp or repeated pain.

Religious Leanings

Religious background is the basis for various medical debates in society and can have major repercussions on a patient/doctor relationship. A devout patient may object to certain treatments if they contradict their faith.

Additional knowledge on a patient’s religion prevents healthcare professionals from possibly offending them and risking the relationship. A dietician can give appropriate meal plans to followers of diet-restrictive religions. Nutritionists can prepare their patients beforehand for any complications that might arise from observed fasting periods.

Healthy treatments can work around religious principles if caretakers have enough time and knowledge to prepare.


These are just a few common considerations that patients have regarding their options. There are tens, if not hundreds, of other patient values that can come up in the healthcare process. It’s only through detailed communication between caregivers and patients that optimal care can be provided.

Even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if it’s embarrassing. Sharing your thoughts with the people safeguarding your life gives you a better chance at maintaining your values while still getting the treatment you need.

Published by Bryan Lee

Bryan Lee is a contributing writer with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He writes regularly for Patient Orator in matters regarding healthcare advocacy for individuals and other healthcare-related topics.

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