It’s normal to have questions and anxieties when facing any kind of health issue, whether it’s an illness, injury, surgery, recovery, etc. Every patient wants to receive the best care possible, but did you know that patients play a big role in the care that they receive? Inherent in any medical care is relationships — relationships between the patient and practitioners (physicians, therapists, nurses, etc.). When patients come prepared with the best knowledge of their symptoms, medical history, and current circumstances, the practitioners have a better understanding of their patients and can offer the best treatment plan.
So what does it mean to “come prepared”?
PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 1. MAKE A LIST
Time with practitioners is often limited, so by making a list of things you’d like to address you will make the most of that limited time. What symptom(s) is worrying you the most? Try to pinpoint when it started and anything that makes it better or worse. Avoid waiting until the practitioner is leaving the room to bring up another symptom or concern. Undivided attention is important in patient/practitioner communication.
PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 2. COMMUNICATE YOUR CONCERNS AND DESIRES
Patients will often hesitate to discuss financial or family concerns to practitioners. Health issues can be scary and it’s not easy to talk about them, even with your own doctors. Practitioners understand that medical problems and treatment are both financially and emotionally taxing. Don’t be afraid to communicate those concerns! Are you worried about how you will pay for your healthcare and prescriptions? There may be programs to help you. If your practitioner doesn’t immediately know the answer he/she will direct you to a staff member who can help. Does your family need help coping with the stress of your illness or recovery? Support groups and/or counseling can do that. Let your practitioners know you need it!
PARTICIPATING IN YOUR HEALTHCARE: 3. ASK QUESTIONS
Don’t hesitate to ask, “What does that mean?” if a physician says something that goes over your head. If you don’t ask, the practitioner will assume you understand all that is being said. Ask about surgery risks, expected outcomes, prescribed medications and therapies. Tell your physician, therapist, nurse, etc. what you hear them saying. Make sure you’re all on the same page before anyone leaves the room. You might even think of questions in the middle of the grocery store or while watching TV — write them down and ask them at your next appointment.
Remember, you are an active participant in your own healthcare. You are an expert on your body, your circumstances, your life. Your doctors are experts at what they do but they need your expertise on YOU in order to provide the best healthcare.