Just a few decades ago patients were passive participants in their health care. They didn't question what they were told by their doctors and accepted their opinions unchallenged. Today, the doctor/patient relationship has evolved; largely because patients are asking more questions, getting more answers and are more active in their own health care.
No doubt that the information age had something to do with this change. Medical information previously reserved for professionals is now available for all. With the click of a mouse patients can gain information arming them with knowledge they never had before and giving health consumers the confidence to advocate for themselves and partner with their doctors.
Smart patients everywhere are not only improving their own quality of care, but also making the whole healthcare system more accountable and effective. Patients who persevere in their quest for answers, can save their lives.
Smart patients are inquisitive, proactive, outspoken and relentless in their pursuit for answers.
Here's how you can become a smart patient and get the best healthcare possible for you and the people you love.
1. Choose a Doctor Who Thinks Like You
Choosing a like-minded doctor who matches your communication style and philosophy assures that he or she will be mindful of your preferences, likes and dislikes. Developing a rapport can provide a comfort level for the exchange of pertinent information that can help in making a diagnosis. Finding Dr. Right may take a few tries. Don't be discouraged.
2. Have a Game Plan
Don't assume that every doctor you visit will know everything about you from your chart. Come with a list of questions and symptoms that needs addressing and your health history. Ask for clarification if you don't understand what is being told to you or if you have additional questions or concerns. Try not to pepper the conversation with irrelevant details or wander off-topic. Tell the truth. Make sure that all health professionals involved in your care have important health information about you.
Make this list before your scheduled appointment.
- Current and past illnesses, surgery, symptoms and chronic conditions
- All prescription, over-the-counter medicines and supplements you are taking or have had issue with in the past
- Family medical history (mother, father, brother, sister, child)
- A list of current complaints or symptoms and what you have done so far that worked or didn't
3. Find the Expert
This is particularly important when you have received a diagnosis. You want to select someone who had the breadth of knowledge and experience in dealing with your diagnosis.
4. Take Detailed Notes
Oftentimes you got to the doctor because you are worried about a symptom or waiting to hear the results of a test. Anxiety can cause you to zone out so you may need to bring a back up. Bring a recording device or a second set of ears (friend or family) with you who can take notes and speak up for you if you become upset or have trouble articulating. This way you can refer to the details later in the quiet of your own home.
5. Get a Second Opinion
Many people are concerned about letting their physician know that they want a second opinion. Most good doctors take this as a sign of a smart patient looking to confirm a diagnosis or treatment plan and not sign of distrust.