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NAFC’s 2nd Annual State Of Incontinence Survey: The Doctor-Patient Relationship

November is National Bladder Health Awareness Month, and we can’t think of a better time to share the results of NAFC’s 2nd annual survey to patients.

This year, NAFC focused on learning more about the doctor patient relationship. We wanted to know how patients (or doctors) initiated the discussion around bladder leaks, how patients felt during the discussion, what types of education and treatment options were discussed, and the overall outcome and follow up after the appointment was over.

Over the course of 2 months, NAFC surveyed over 260 patients about their interactions with their doctors. The survey was fairly evenly split between men and women, and varied by age groups, with the 65+ crowd being the most heavily weighted group with 127 respondents.

Most of what we found was positive. In fact, we saw that the majority of doctors do a good job of talking about incontinence and making their patients feel comfortable and supported. And, many physicians spend time educating their patients about incontinence as a condition, and the treatment options available.

And yet, the small portion of patients who were unsatisfied gave us pause. Below are some of our findings, and beyond that, ways to make your future discussions about bladder leaks more positive and productive.

Findings From The 2nd Annual NAFC Patient Survey:  Talking To Your Doctor

Many patients feel uncomfortable talking to their doctor about incontinence

  • Nearly 30% of patients responding to the survey felt uncomfortable talking with their primary care doctor about bladder leaks, and 20% felt their concerns were not taken seriously.

Education is important, but not always up to par.

  • Less than half of respondents said their doctor educated them about general bladder and bowel health “somewhat well” or “extremely well”.

  • Respondents said that a better knowledge of all the treatment options available is the biggest thing that would have made them seek treatment sooner.

Men seem to be treated differently than women. 

  • Once at the doctor’s office, more men reported feeling uncomfortable talking about their incontinence. Yet, men reported receiving more time with the doctor, were referred more often to specialists, felt (more than women) like their concerns were taken seriously, and reported feeling satisfied with their total care more often than women.

Most doctors push medication or absorbents, but may not offer alternatives.

  • Only about half of respondents said their PCP talked to them about the treatment options available to them, with absorbent products and medications being the most often discussed.

Follow up is generally lax, or non-existent.

  • Over 35% of patients who spoke with their doctor were not started on a treatment plan, and of those who were, less than half reported still being on treatment.

  • What’s more, the majority of patients said they were not happy with the treatment they are on.

  • Respondents felt that their doctors could have better supported their condition or treatment plan by pointing them to other resources, like NAFC, for support, providing additional educational information to them to help them learn more about their condition, and calling or emailing them to see how their condition was improving or how treatment was going.

What Does All Of This Mean For Me?

So, what do these results tell us?  It’s clear that your discussions with your physician matter. They set the course for your future treatment, and overall satisfaction with therapy.  And while it appears that many people have good interactions with their doctors, some appear to feel unsatisfied. Below are tips to help you make sure your interaction with your doctor is the best it can be.

Know your stuff.

While it’s easy to assume that your doctor knows everything about your condition and the options available, you can’t always assume that is the case.  Even the best doctors don’t always know about new treatment options and may miss something every now and then. And, with limited time available to talk with you, it’s incredibly helpful if you come to the appointment already knowledgeable.

Try to really learn about your condition, and the possible reasons you might be experiencing bladder leaks. Do some research on the different treatment options out there and think about the ones that sound like a good fit for you.

Coming in to your appointment armed with your own education puts you in the driver’s seat and gives you more control over your treatment than you might have if you passively let your doctor lead you down a specific path.  It also gives you more time during your appointment to discuss the pros and cons of the treatments you’ve learned about.

Be prepared to have a discussion, and consider making a dedicated appointment to do so.

If you wait until your annual check up to talk about bladder leaks, it’s likely you’ll be trying to squeeze it in at the tail end or in between other pertinent concerns. Make a dedicated appointment to talk about your condition to ensure you are given ample time to address it.

It’s also super helpful if you come in with some back up material. Fill out a bladder diary so your doctor can see your pattern of leaks and the extent to which it’s affecting you. And, if you’re embarrassed to talk about bladder leaks or nervous you might forget something, use our checklist to help you get the conversation rolling.

Be persistent.

Don’t let your doctor tell you that what you are experiencing is normal or just a part of aging. We find it hard to believe that some doctors even say this to patients, but we saw from this recent survey that they do. Don’t let your doctor brush off your concerns because of age. Yes, incontinence is more common as you age. But it’s not normal, and there are treatments that can help you address it. No one should be made to feel they have to live with bladder leaks.

Be willing to switch doctors.

Unfortunately, not every doctor will align with your way of thinking.  But, you’re paying them for their service. If they’re not taking your concerns seriously, don’t be afraid to find someone else who will.

Check out more results and tips from our annual survey here, and download tools to help you with your next discussion with your doctor!

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