There is no one that is going to take better care of you – than you! Here are my 10 tips for ensuring you are prepared and receive excellent care:
1. Know what you are looking for in your doctor-patient relationship. Is your current relationship everything you want it to be? If not, ask for it. Do you want to be part of the decision-making process in your medical care or do you prefer for your physician to direct and make all of the medical decisions. How much time do you expect your practitioner to spend with you during appointments? Do you want to be educated about your health/plan of care or does that overwhelm you? Is your doctor going to call you at home to give you results of a test you are waiting on (such as an MRI of your brain because of new headaches or a CT scan to look at a lump you noticed) or is he/she going to make you wait until your next scheduled appointment?
2. Ask questions and find a practitioner willing to answer them. Ask anything and everything you want to know. Be willing to be patient while waiting on answers. Your doctor doesn’t always have the time during your appointment to answer them so be patient but be persistent.
3. Communicate your concerns and needs/desires. Be clear with your expectations. Not all patients are the same. Your physician can’t predict what your needs and expectations are without hearing them from you.
4. Don’t give up. If you don’t find what you are looking for with the first practitioner you visit, find another.
5. Educate yourself. In order for you to be your best advocate you have to know what questions to ask. You need to know what labs or ancillary tests are available and what the results mean. You need to read up on your health concerns/conditions and be prepared for your appointment. If you are interested in any alternative therapies you should research them so that you can ask about them.
6. Be organized. Keep all your medical records together. Whether it is an electronic file or paper file, organize all of your labs and instructions in one place. Often a binder with folders can help keep lab results, bills, and physician instructions, organized.
7. Always have a ‘must be answered’ list. Create a list of the most important questions you have and make sure they are answered before you leave the appointment.
8. Have an advocate. Bring someone with you to take notes, to be an extra pair of eyes and ears, perhaps to ask questions, etc. If you know someone with a medical background bring him/her with you.
9. Consider getting a second opinion. If your health condition is serious and your practitioner is recommending an aggressive treatment you might consider getting a second opinion. Seeking the care of a specialist in this particular field of medicine might be warranted.
10. Carry your important information with you. Keep a wallet-sized file of your medical conditions, a current list of your supplements, herbs, and/or medications, your allergies, and your doctor’s contact information handy. You never know when an emergency will occur and this file may prove crucial at some point in the future.
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