It's For Your Own Health: How To Be Pushy With Your Doctor
Take care of your own body.
According to The Guardian, "The days when doctor knew best are long gone. Now the most effective way to get the healthcare you want is to be assertive."
Here's the thing: pushy patients get results.
How can you start? Don't apologize for taking up your doctor's time. It's their job to be there, assess your medical needs, provide a solution, and help you. No one knows your body better than you do.
Marisa Weiss, MD, chief medical officer, president, and founder of Breastcancer.org, gives some advice below via Everyday Health on how to be a pushy patient.
In my own practice as a breast oncologist, I have always viewed caring for my patients as a partnership. While I have the medical expertise and knowledge about breast cancer, the women I care for are the experts on their very individual bodies, personal circumstances, and priorities. Both perspectives are needed to figure out the best course of treatment.
But it wasn’t until my own breast cancer diagnosis seven years ago, when my white coat came off and the patient gown went on, that I fully recognized the importance of being an active and vocal participant in your own care. No matter how good your doctors are at their jobs, with today’s complex medical system and rapid advances, there’s no way to know everything — and they surely don’t know you as well as you do.
So it’s critical to be assertive: Speak up, ask questions, and push for the information you and your doctors need to make the right decisions for your health.
That said, there are more and less effective ways to be a “pushy” patient. Remember, you and your doctor are allies in this journey. You’ll get the best care by working together rather than being at odds.
Be the Manager of Your Medical Care
The first thing you need to do as a pushy patient is supply your doctor with valuable information he may not be aware of. This is particularly important if you’re dealing with a serious illness or multiple health conditions, in which case you likely have more than one doctor, have had a number of different tests, and may be taking multiple medications, increasing the chances that something will fall through the cracks.
Come to your doctor’s visit armed with that information. If you’ve had tests taken since your last visit, ask for and bring the results. If that’s not possible, call your doctor’s office in advance of your visit to alert them to the tests, and to make sure the doctor has the report when you meet.
If it’s your first visit with a doctor, be prepared to provide a list of your current health conditions and the doctors treating you, the tests that have been done, the drugs and dosages you’re on and have taken in the past, and a thorough family medical history. And if there are any changes as time goes on, make sure to update your doctor about them.
While this may sound onerous, in our imperfect healthcare system, it’s ultimately up to us as patients to make sure our doctors are fully informed. If you don’t feel up to the job, enlist a close relative or friend to help you out.
Get the Answers You Need
In advance of your doctor visit, think through the questions and concerns you want to raise, and write them down in priority order. There may not be time to discuss everything in one visit, so you want to make sure you at least get to those that are most important. It can be helpful to provide your doctor with a copy of your questions at the beginning of the visit so you can go through them together. It’s not a good idea to start asking your questions as your session is coming to a close, when there may not be enough time to properly address them.
Take notes during your discussion, especially if that conversation concerns important or complicated treatment decisions. Your doctor may also be open to your recording the session, but you should always ask beforehand. Some doctors feel it can hamper an open dialogue and aren’t comfortable with recording.
If you don’t fully understand the answer provided, ask your doctor to explain it in simpler terms. There are great physicians who are not great communicators, so you may be able to get better answers from another person on the clinical staff, like a physician assistant or nurse practitioner.
Also, request recommendations on trustworthy and accurate online resources you can consult.
What to Be Pushy About
Don’t be afraid to question a doctor who orders a test that you know you’ve already taken, or who prescribes medications you think haven’t worked well for you in the past. There may be a good reason for it, but it’s also possible that it was an oversight, and you could save yourself unnecessary procedures and treatments by speaking up.
If your treatment is not providing adequate relief or you’re experiencing difficult side effects, make sure your doctor is fully aware of these issues and ask for possible changes in treatment or additional therapies that could help. If there are no good solutions with available treatments, ask about clinical trials that are testing new therapies. If your doctor is not aware of any, you can look for studies at ClinicalTrials.gov, or contact patient advocacy groups like Breastcancer.org that provide clinical trial information.
Ask about genetic tests that could help inform your treatment, especially if you’re dealing with cancer. Even if you’ve been tested in the past, there may be newer tests that could provide more precise information.
If you have the time, get a second opinion when faced with a big medical decision.
It’s also critical that you speak up about your personal issues and preferences: what’s most important to you in dealing with this medical issue, what individual circumstances could impact your care, and what type of doctor-patient relationship works best for you. All of these factors should be considered when deciding on the right course of treatment.
Work as a Team
You and your doctor have the same goal: to make sure you get the best care possible. To do so, it needs to be a team effort. You should be a “pushy” patient because you have the most at stake. But it’s also important to work collaboratively with your doctors, value their opinions, and express gratitude for their commitment to your care.
In wearing the patient gown, I have learned that a “thank you” goes a very long way. And in my role as a doctor, I thank each of my patients for the honor of taking care of them.
H/T Everyday Health
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