What Are Your Personal Health Goals? Have You Ever Shared Them With Your Doctor? Has Your Doctor Ever Asked You What Yours Are?


Face it.  We all have personal health goals.  We may not share our personal health goals with family of friends like we do our financial or professional goals, but we all still have them.   I for example aspire to the following personal health goals:

  • To defy the conventional wisdom associated with aging (look younger, feel younger, live like I am younger).
  • To avoid premature aging – vision problems, flexibility and balance issues, aging and appearance, weight gain, skin tone, etc.
  • To not be called old by my grand kids
  • To live a more active life than my parents did
  • Question authority (yes I am a product of the 60’s and 70’s)


OK so I am vain.  I bet I am not the only one.  I am just the one dumb enough to publicly admit it (LOL).

Have I ever share these goals with my doctor?  Are you kidding me?

He can’t deal with the fact that I experience depression from time to time and insist on telling him about it…eeewww.   Besides…he will just tell me that getting old is part of the natural process.   You are supposed to lose your hearing, lose your balance and flexibility, get fat and wrinkly, become senile, and so on.   Let’s face it. It’s hard to have a conversation with someone – including your physician – when you know from experience that they are simply not interested  in what you have to say…or don’t share your point of view…when it comes to certain subjects.

There’s also another reason I have never shared my person health goals with my physician.   I have never been asked.

In their defense, doctors aren’t trained to care about things beyond the realm of strict biomedical conditions – acute conditions in other words.   That’s why it is so hard for physicians and many other provider types to get their heads around patient-centered care.   To become more patient-centered providers need to deal with touchy feely issues like personal health goals, personal health beliefs and motivations, family issues, depression, anxiety and all the other human emotions.   A physician I know referred to patient-centered care as a kind of “rabbit hole” physicians just don’t want to go down.  Getting to know the “person behind the disease” is time consuming and can take you down paths you not sure where they end up!

Health care executives, providers and payers wonder why patients aren’t more engaged in their health…aka do as they are told.  The problem isn’t that patients (people) aren’t engaged in their health…they are…the problem is that so much of what is passed off as patient engagement these days (EHRs, PHRs, team care, care coordinators, web portals, decision support tools) are not inherently engaging to us patients!   Why?  Go back and read my personal health goals and explain to how today’s technology-enabled vision of patient engagement is at all relevant to my (and I suspect many of your) personal health care goals.   

That’s what I think.   What’s your opinion?

Post Script

As I mentioned in my last post, I am heading up a research team that will be auditing 2,500 physician-patient conversations recorded during primary care office visits from across the US.   Among the many questions we will seek to answer will be the frequency with which physicians and/or patients raise the question of the patient’s personal health goals.

Stay tuned.  For more information on the 2012 Physician-Patient Communication Benchmark Report click here.


  1. Rebecca says:

    You should consider seeing a family physician. Patient centered, whole person and family care is the bedrock of their healthcare ethos.

    • Rebecca,

      Thanks for your comment. We will have to see if the data from our Benchmark Report on Physician-Patient Communications backs up your claim that Family Practitioners are “more patient-centered” than Internists, etc.

      I suspect they don’t communicate that much differently from most primary care physicians – e.g., many are physician-directed vs. patient centered. We will see. Stay tuned.

  2. Joyce N. DeWitt says:

    My doctor has not point blank asked me about my personal health goals, but he is very forward thinking and he does always ask “what’s new and exciting?” He is receptive and I’ve told him without being asked, that I have fears of ending up like my mother, who can barely get around now at 89. She has spinal stenosis and has been in pain for years…. but she would never consent to any kinds of procedures that could have helped her. He has asked me about drinking (which has been moderate problem for me) and he is open to being told about anxieties, fears, etc. I have been depressed off and on since the death of our oldest child, our son, when he was 27. My doctor has talked about some of the details about his death, and went over the autopsy report with me. He and I have talked about job stresses, and also my insistence on keeping fit and being active, while my husband is content to feel and act older than he actually is… 62. My doctor knows that my husband and I have different agendas, and he does listen. I always wish I could have more time with him, because he is such a kind and caring doctor, but like all internists, he is booked into that fifteen minute appointment schedule. I think he would be very receptive to talking about health goals.

  3. rustyzebra says:

    I have told my doctors that my health goals are to recover from the autoimmune disorder that was caused by them giving me 7 vaccines for 6 different diseases within an 8 month period. Unfortunately, stating that to doctors has been met with icy reactions, ranging from “you need to get over it” to “what do you want me to do about it?” to “have you tried taking hot showers?”
    BTW – I did settle my petition in vaccine court and now I bring a copy of the judgement with me to the few doctor’s appointment I do go to. Most doctors haven’t even heard of vaccine injury before, nor the claims process, I have to explain it to them. That being said, I’m tired of paying to educate them, when they are unwilling to help me recover. I do all possible to be my own physician and responsible for my own health.

  4. In a June 2012 reply here, I mentioned that I ask patients for their goals. Since then we have developed a process and tools to do this more efficiently and effectively. My experience is that people give a long list of ” shoulds” ( I should lose weight, go to the gym more, etc ) before we can get to their real goals. I look forward to the results of your study. Where are you getting those documented interactions?

  5. Scott Emmert says:

    I definitely agree with your comments. I have a great relationship with my very busy family doctor. She has been treating my family and I for ~26 years. She always talks to me in context of my family and how we are all doing and never seems rushed. That said she has never asked me about my personal health goals. I engage in conversation with her to better understand how I can achieve my goals with her help. I recently have been advocating to my family, friends, and during my presentations to consumers how important is it to define your goals and then communicate them to your doctor so they better understand how to provide the best care possible to help you reach your goals!

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