In this ever changing world of healthcare, chronic illness is on the rise and advancements in technology are complex. Even the simplest visit to the doctor’s office can be overwhelming and feel tortuous.
Recently, I visited the doctor for a follow up after completing some blood work. I was informed by my doctor that I was experiencing hypothyroidism and she would be starting me on a dose of levothyroxine. Well OK, I’m lost, and quite frankly a little upset. I have what now? I have to start taking drugs? I’m confident my blood pressure just went through the roof. Wait, that’s a whole different problem. Help!
It’s time that we become our own best champions and ensure that we understand the information that is being communicated. Recently I came across an informative article for nurses that highlighted tips and tricks for communicating with patients. However, I feel like we as patients can flip these tips around and apply them to our own situation. Honestly, it boils down to a few simple communication basics.
If you prefer, take someone with you. This person can take notes and potentially have an unbiased perspective. They can assist you in gathering information and sitting down with you after to process the information presented during your appointment. If there isn’t an option to take someone else with you, consider asking your care provider if you can record the conversation or take notes yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for a simpler explanation. Medical vocabulary can be complicated and not everyone has a firm grasp of the meaning of words or phrases like “transient lingual papillitis”. I mean, can’t you just tell me my taste buds are swollen?
If your care provider is moving through the information too quickly it should be perfectly acceptable for you to ask them to please slow down and to repeat the explanation.
Furthermore, there are some additional items that you can inquire about to ensure you’re receiving all the prime information. If your care provider hasn’t already contributed to the conversation with a list of risks and or hurdles that may arise, ask for them.
Before leaving it can also be helpful to discuss follow up with your provider. You could potentially develop additional questions or a new situation may present itself. Does your provider answer calls and e-mails or would you need to return to the office?
The Path to Advocacy
It shouldn’t stop there. As patients we have to be advocates for ourselves. Patients should feel empowered and know that they play a vital role in their own health care situation, no longer is the doctor’s word final.
As we discussed above, don’t be afraid of asking questions and writing down the answers. Ask for a simple explanation, if needs.
In addition, it’s imperative that you understand how health insurance functions. Understanding that it feels like a complicated labyrinth, it’s still a vital component to understand the intricacies of your plan. Know what your deductible is and what procedures are covered. These things will assist you when the bills arrive. Medical bills can be, and are often wrong. I can’t stress how crucial it is to go over the bill to ensure you were charged correctly.
Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to make a change. If you are frustrated with the lack of response or attention to detail that your doctor provides, know that it may be time for a drastic change. Choose someone new and switch doctor’s office.
After all, it’s only your health on the line, right?