A compassionate doctor. An early, insightful diagnosis. Effective drugs and treatments that work, with minimal side effects. You deserve all this – and more – from your health care system.
But the reality can be far different: Your doctor’s appointment may be shorter than a television commercial break; your physician may interrupt you and have no interest in listening to you; in the hospital, the doctors and nurses who care for you may forget to wash their hands – raising your risk for a hospital-acquired infection; and you may receive prescriptions that cause unwanted side effects or that interact with other medications and remedies you’re taking. Like any service industry, there are many terrific doctors and hospitals, but plenty of mediocre ones, too, and, on any given day, someone is going to make a mistake.
But there is the other side of the health-care equation. As patients, we don’t always hold up our end of the bargain. Studies show that half of us don’t take prescription drugs as directed, and many of us skip them entirely. One in three of us are reluctant to ask questions. And many of us withhold important information from the doctor, either intentionally of without giving it a second thought. In the end we are ultimately responsible for our health. You need to be the CEO of your healthcare.
Your first step in making sure you receive top quality health care? Believe that you deserve it. Your second step? Follow these strategies to get the care you need – and deserve.
The first thing to focus on is getting doctor visits that work. Here are the strategies to achieve this.
Study up before your visit
Research your medical condition and concerns by reading reputable web sites. Generally, government health web sites and those maintained by medical associations, large nonprofit groups dedicated to a single medical condition, and university medical centers have the most trustworthy, up-to-date medical information. Make notes and create questions. You shouldn’t try to diagnose your symptoms or self-prescribe your remedies. It’s still up to your doctor to do that.
Make a list of questions, and then prioritize them
Doing this you will feel more confident when talking with your doctor – and you’ll get the answers and information you need. In one review if 33 office visit studies, researchers found that people who brought checklists even got more time with their doctors.
Feel intimidated? Try asking your spouse or other relative or friend to play doctor while you voice your health concerns, and ask every question on your list, out loud. The best time to do this is in the hours just before your appointment.
Bring a family member along
Another person who knows about your health and your concerns can help you listen carefully, take notes, ask the right questions, and even help you make important decisions during a doctor’s appointment.
Carry a tape recorder
Replaying an audio tape of your visit could assist you in better understanding instructions and information that you may have missed or not fully understood at the time. Just let the doctor know you are recording for that purpose.
Bring in your current medications
Toss all your prescription drugs as well as herbal supplements, vitamins, and over-the-counter remedies and bring them all in a shopping bag with you to your appointment. This will help your doctor understand if you’re experiencing any problems with drug interactions or if you’re taking any drugs you really don’t need.
Be sure your doctor knows these three important things about you:
Finally, evaluate your doctor. You are not obligated to stay with a certain physician if you don’t feel they are a good match for you. Patients who don’t trust their doctors simply don’t get well as quickly, studies show, probably because they’re less motivated to follow their advice and treatments. Ask to see another doctor in the same practice, or ask friends and family for recommendations for a new doctor.
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