When you are a patient with a serious injury, medical malpractice case, condition, or other health care challenge, there are many things you can do to get the best care from your medical providers. What you must remember is that you are the captain of your health care team, and, ultimately, it is you who makes the decisions that affect your care and treatment.
YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH CARE TEAM!
Before every doctor’s appointment, you should write down, in the order of importance, all of your concerns, questions, and medical problems. If your doctor interrupts you, be sure you return to your list of problems and concerns. Make sure you get answers to all of your questions before your examination is over.
1. Want Answers? Ask Questions!
If you have questions-and, yes, you should have many-ask them of your doctors, nurses, therapists, and other health care providers. Don’t be timid or shy. You are the one who is most concerned about your health care, so be sure to ask questions-and lots of them. When it comes to your health, there is no such thing as a dumb question.
In fact, it’s a good idea to start a health care notebook to keep a record of your visits, symptoms, side effects, pain, complaints, all the medicines you take, your questions, and the answers you receive. Plan to ask questions about your current condition and what to expect about your future care. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Why?”
Bring your notebook to all of your appointments so that you won’t forget anything. Write down all the answers the doctor or other people give you. Don’t feel rushed. This is the time to get the answers you need. If you do not have time to write down all of the information during the appointment, make sure you make notes immediately afterward-preferably in the waiting room of the health care professional’s office, while the information is still fresh and clear in your mind. There is a lot to keep track of, so keep a thorough written record of everything.
It you do not understand something, say so. Doctors are often in a hurry, but it is part of their job to listen to you and give you all the information that you need. Your doctor wants you to understand everything so that you can do your part and actively participate in getting well. If you still don’t understand something, keep asking questions.
2. Do Not Be Intimidated by Your Doctor
Make a list of what you need to talk about and stick to it. You should always maintain eye contact when talking with your doctor. This will show that you are very serious about participating in your care and treatment. Do not let the doctor avoid answering your questions or make insensitive comments that go unchallenged.
3. Tell Your Doctor Everything
Be honest and detailed. Do not tell the doctor what you think you should say or say you are doing better than you really are. You should be completely honest about everything you are feeling, experiencing, and thinking. Talk about your current condition- what is changing, what is better, what is worse, and how you are progressing. Tell the doctor about other conditions you experience, what times of the day the symptoms occur, what activities cause you the most discomfort, and discuss all the medicines you are taking. If you think a medicine may be causing a problem, mention it. If you feel things are not progressing quickly enough, say so!
Be completely honest about your health habits. If you miss taking your medicine, say so. Tell your doctor exactly how much and how often you smoke, drink, exercise, and what you eat. Tell your doctor if you have been depressed or anxious. Your doctor can only provide you with the best treatment-treatment developed especially for you-if your complete medical history is known.
4. Tell Your Doctor If You Are Unhappy with Your Medical Care
People will often keep negative comments to themselves, fearing that complaints will create a bad doctor-patient relationship. In fact, most doctors respect open and honest communication, and communicative patients often receive better health care.
5. Keep All Your Health Care Professionals Informed
Tell each health care professional about the other health care providers you are seeing, what they are doing for you, and what they are telling you. Whether you are receiving acupuncture, physical therapy, or another treatment, each provider on your team needs to know the big picture in order to provide you with the best care. You are the only person who knows everything that is going on, so you should keep everyone on the team informed about your complete medical situation.