When seeing a healthcare provider most of us are assuming a position that appears somewhat inferior to that of the doctor or general practitioner. This is somewhat natural as we are usually seeking assistance from these professions because we have fallen ill and are as a consequence not feeling strong, vitalized, but weak and vulnerable.
We are, by seeking help from another usually not knowledgeable in the field of their practice, and may therefore feel unable to make decisions on the matter at hand that are in our best interest considering our presenting state. Thus we are seeking the experts educated and speciality informed skill to aid in our relief. This too is natural. But should we therefore blindly trust anothers’ decision-making, should we assume a passive role and wholly hand the responsibility for our recovery to the skilled healthcare professional?
We cannot, should not, and must not, rely on others to take the correct actions and make the appropriate decisions on our behalf! We must master our own healthcare and must be knowledgeable of all issues pertaining to it, from cause to cure, via intervention, treatment and medication. At all stages must we be informed of what is presenting, what may have caused it, what can be done, what is necessary, useful, and effective in our recovery, what promotes our health, with the least possible of negative impact…
By the above statement though, it appears like we, as patients, should be educated in depth on all issues of illness, disease and healthcare that we could possibly ever be inflicted by. But that is not what it is meant to say! It simply means that we have to be attentive, to our own state of being, but also to what the doctor or general practitioner suggests, intends and does.
It means that we have to be curious. We have to investigate and demand to be correctly informed. We should never, not dare to ask what the GP means if he uses vocabulary that we do not know! Every health practitioner and healthcare provider is doing a customer service; he or she is there for us, the patient, thus we can and must ask about what we don´t know, but what pertains to our case. He or she must provide an appropriate and correct answer, or, where he or she is not capable of delivering such information, he or she must recommend another appropriate source we can resort to for finding the answer.
The above statement also means that we as patients have to be observant! To be watchful, means to be sensitive and aware of what happens, when it happens and how it happens, what changes, what improves and what aggravates. These, sometimes very subtle details can be decisive indicators for a GP to base treatment plans and procedures on.
The below embedded video shows, in a humorous, yet sincere way, how important it is to be an informed patient!
Own your body’s data:
(Source origin: https://www.ted.com/talks/talithia_williams_own_your_body_s_data)
What should we, as patients, know and share when in need of seeing a healthcare provider?
– We should be able to give information relevant to the condition we are presenting with, how we are feeling different now to before we got sick. We should be able to describe the symptoms that we are expressing in some detail.
– We should know our own medical history, surgeries we have had, vaccinations we have received, allergies that have been identified and of course what medications we are currently taking (prescription and non-prescription drugs, as well as supplements). We should know of adverse effects that we have experienced while taking medication, and should always mention suspected side-effects.
– We should know details of the main family medical history. What conditions have close relatives had (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer etc)…
– Treatments, by other healthcare providers should be mentioned, in order to avoid adverse interactions of therapies and medication.
To be an informed patient aids in the provision of the best possible treatment for the presenting condition!
What can we do to become best informed, and to take on the responsibility for our health?
– We must inform ourselves, become informed and be informed… and if in any doubt… we must get a second opinion…
Inform ourselves: Scout the internet for information on our condition, the possible treatments and therapies. But be aware that not all sources of information on the web are credible sources. Seek to search verified sources and double check information obtained. A recommended treatment for acid reflux of a friend, prescribed by a GP, upon research on the www, brought to light that the drug had never been trialed scientifically, and in fact contained an industrial substance that was wholly inadequate for ingestion! Sadly, this drug had obviously passed clearance by the medical and pharmaceutical boards.
Become informed: Ask our healthcare provider and the pharmacist about treatments and medications we are asked to take. A relative was prescribed a drug albeit having informed the practitioner of a secondary condition that with the administration of said prescribed drug could have caused a severe complication with potential lethal consequence. The pharmacist noticed this. The patient had believed the doctor to pay attention to his case-history and consider this in his prescribing. He had not!
Be informed: Read the package insert and ask doctors, pharmacists or medical personnel about interactions with other drugs we are taking, allergies we have or adverse reactions we fear we may get. Also, be aware that the potential interaction of medications, may require other drugs we are taking to be increased or reduced. The last line of the small print package insert of a medication prescribed for a patient, described a contra-indication, a serious adverse reaction, if a patient had previously been taking another certain type of drug. This patient had not read the insert, and needed to be hospitalized due to the effects from this prescription.
It is equally important to be aware that changes in daily routine, working schedules, diet and even relocation to another place may impact on the medication we may need. A friend, following a heart attack had relocated from cooler climes to a region of warmer climate. Still on the same medication as in the hometown he began having severe complications and increasingly felt seriously ill. It turned out that the medication for his heart was inadequate for the warmer climate. His hometown GP had not been aware of this, a local cardiologist changed the medication and stressed that a few weeks later, still on that same medication, the patient would have been at risk of suffering another heart attack or a stroke. The medication had not been working properly and had in the different temperature, a critical ancillary effect to the intended one.
Get a second opinion and always take someone along!
A second opinion frequently opens doors to other treatment options and offers one more environment to ask questions and receive information on our condition and possible treatments.
Four ears hear more than two and, four eyes see more than two! As a vulnerable patient, being anxious, feeling unwell, we may overhear, forget to mention or ask something. Therefore, taking someone with us may be helpful in getting the best out of a consultation.
It is crucial to always be aware and critical when handling our own healthcare! We wish to get the best possible treatment and there is a lot we can do to assure that we indeed get it! Therefore it is very important to be an informed patient!