When is it time to see a doctor?

It’s a question you’ve likely faced before. You’re not feeling well. Should you ignore your symptoms and hope they’ll pass — or see a doctor?

The diverse “chief complaints” bringing patients to the clinic share one common factor: something about a symptom worried a patient (or a patient’s family member) enough to seek expert advice. Each person has a different “threshold” for suffering. A sprained ankle is mildly bothersome for one; it causes sleeplessness and depression for another. Some people think nothing of slogging through a nasty cold, while others literally can’t get out of bed.

The thing is, there’s no universal correlation between objective symptoms and subjective patient experience. Because of this reason, my answer for when to see a doctor is simple: trust your gut feeling. The question to ask is: Is my symptom bothering me so much that it’s interfering significantly with my day-to-day life? If the answer is yes, you’ll benefit from seeing a caring compassionate physician.

It may be easy to ignore a nagging symptom, especially if you have a busy job or children that demand your attention. Sometimes, it’s perfectly appropriate to do so. Your body is a natural and wonderful healer. It directs the “two-week” cure: Many minor issues do get better within two weeks, on their own, and don’t need medical attention. But when you know something just isn’t right, listen to that feeling. Often, we don’t think twice about taking our children to see the doctor when something isn’t right, or even to obtain routine preventive care. Treat yourself with the same compassion. When you acknowledge and trust your gut, you’re placing yourself and your health first.

What about seeing a physician for chronic issues or unhealthy behaviors: poorly managed stress, substance dependence, poor nutrition or inactivity? These are even easier symptoms to ignore, especially when they may not produce blatantly obvious symptoms. But if you tune in closely and honestly, your body will often send early signals indicating suboptimal health and wellness. A good physician can help get you back on track before major illness develops.

For the above to work, you’ve got to see a trustworthy, knowledgeable doctor whom you feel fits the “compassionate and caring” bill. This is really important. First of all, patients experiencing bothersome symptoms are more likely to see a doctor early on — and, incidentally, feel more confident about their health — when they trust and respect their physician. In fact, robust scientific data proves that much of the medical world’s ability to help patients feel better comes from the compassionate communication and trust physicians build with their patients. How a treatment is provided can heal as powerfully as the treatment itself.

Physiologically, the healing effect occurs because trust, bonding and reassurance create hormonal changes in a patient’s brain and body, helping reduce perception of pain and suffering. Clinicians writing in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association describe this healing effect, concluding “research has shown that effective patient-physician communication can improve a patient’s health as quantifiably as many drugs.” An exhaustive review of 21 studies in the Canadian Medical Association Journal analyzed this phenomenon across medical conditions and patient background. When patients felt the doctor listened, understood their symptoms, and explained the treatment options well, they were more likely to demonstrate improved health outcomes, including blood pressure, pain control and faster resolution of symptoms.

In today’s rushed system of medical care, it can be difficult to find the physician with the time and energy to create the healing doctor-patient bond. Gastroenterologist and author Dr. Grant Thompson, who writes extensively on the doctor-patient relationship, notes: “Since the days when doctors routinely made house calls and sat by the bedside offering comforting words along with medical care, the doctor-patient relationship has become increasingly impersonal and superficial.”

It’s no coincidence that Dr. Thompson mentioned the house call. House calls hearken back to times when medical practice truly evinced empathy and service wherein doctors went out of their way to see and care for people in distress, instead of the other way around.

This is why Heal exists. In today’s world of technological innovation, it’s easy to see a house-call app as another cog in the wheels of a consumer-driven, on-demand economy. And indeed, there are great consumer perks: the nostalgic novelty, price transparency, convenience, and time saved. But at its core, Heal’s mission is more profound. We want to help restore the service of medicine, by harnessing the healing power of the face-to-face visit and a healthy doctor-patient relationship.

Our dedicated team of doctors and staff is helping make this happen. Plain and simple, Heal patients love and trust their doctors . These unsolicited, high ratings occur with good reason: every doctor who works for Heal cares about you, not just your symptom. They know of the connections between lifestyle, mind, and body, and are dedicated to creating a treatment plan appropriate for your unique environment. When you call a Heal doctor for your primary care needs, you’re guaranteed to receive care from a highly qualified physician — one who understands the vital healing power of communication and compassion.

After finishing her undergraduate education at Southern Methodist University and Oxford University, Dr. Krishnaswami attended the University of Michigan Medical School. She then completed her residency at Kaiser Permanente & UC San Francisco and has a Masters of Public Health from UC Berkeley. Janani is now a Fellow at Kaiser Permanente & UCLA.


Thompson, Grant W. The Placebo Effect and Health: Combining Science and Compassionate Care. Promethus Books: Ottawa,Sources:

Ontario 2005.

Travaline JM, R Ruchinskas and GE D’Alonzo, Jr. “Patient-Physician Communication: Why and How.” Journal of the American

Osteopathic Association 2005 (105):13–18.

Stewart MA. “Effective physician patient communication and health outcomes: a review.” Canadian Medical Association Journal.

1995 1;152(9):1423–33.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author, an independent physician, and do not necessarily represent those of Heal. You should not assume or construe that this blog post represents the opinion of Heal. In addition, although this blog post provides information concerning potential medical issues, it should not be relied upon as medical advice. It is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified, licensed physician and does not replace a physician’s independent judgment about any given patient’s condition or appropriateness or risks of any treatment or procedure. Rather, this blog post is solely for general educational and informational purposes. Your reading of this blog post does not create any physician-patient relationship between you and the author.

Originally published at blog.getheal.com.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.