Monday, October 08, 2007

Top Ten Tips for Patients

While I am no expert on the patient-doctor relationship, it seems to me that many patients would benefit from a simple introductory handout that explained to them the nature of the patient-doctor relationship and what their rights and responsibilities are. Based on my experiences, here are ten tips (in particular order) for patients to help them get the most out of an office or hospital visit:

1. Bring Your Meds - It is simple really. You are in pain, you come to see the doctor, they prescribe you medication to relieve your pain. When you come back the next time to see the good doc, the least you could do is bring those medications (or some record of them) along. Why? There are several reasons. First, doctors do not always remember what they prescribed, and the records are not always accurate. The best record is what you are actually taking. Second, if you are seeing multiple doctors who prescribe you different medications, it is important for each doc to know every med that you are on. Third, by bringing the actual meds in, the doctor is better able to gauge how much you are actually taking and prescribe you an appropriate dose / # of tablets.

How to achieve this? Again, it is very simple: put all of your medications in some kind of bag at home. When it is time to see the doctor, bring this bag along with you. That's it. That is all you have to do - you don't have to memorize names or doses of meds. Just bring 'em along.

2. Ask for reports - Any time a doctor runs a test on you (X-ray, CT scan, sends a sample to pathology), they get a report back with the results. Ask for copies of these results! It's your health, and your test, that you likely paid for. You might as well know the outcome, right?

3. Bring your reports - See #1 and 2 above. This applies if you ever see a new doctor.

4. Wear underwear - This applies more to the hospitalized patients. If you are conscious, in no acute distress, and have no problems directly in your groin area, feel free to keep your tighty whites on. No, really, we insist. Okay, so I know as physicians, it is important to fully examine the patient and this is important on day 1. However, on Day 5 for a patient with chest pain, I am not really concerned with their scrotum. While 'going commando' is always a bit of a thrill, you should not do so because... uh... umm... you'll get scrotal cellulitis. Yea, uh, that's it.

5. Go home - Again, this is more for the ambulatory hospital patients. If you are not acutely in pain and you are just waiting for a test that is of little diagnostic value, you can leave. As my upper level resident pointed out today when I asked him why we did not restrain an agitated patient who was trying to pull his IV, hospitals are not jails. As a patient, you have the right to leave. To do so, you must sign a form that says you are leaving "against medical advice" or AMA. Of course, this sounds ominous, but in some cases, it is actually to the patient's benefit to leave AMA. Why? Well, in some cases, physicians practice CYA (cover your ass) medicine in which they order a bunch of pointless tests that take forever to come back. During this time, the patient is just sitting there, waiting to catch something from the hundreds of sick people around them. If you are feeling well, and the tests can be done as an outpatient, well.... go home!

6. Ask questions -Pretty self-explanatory. If you don't ask questions, you'll never know. At the very minimum, you should know the name of your diagnosis, and what it means, and what the doctor is doing to treat your condition. Write the diagnosis down, and then later, look it up online. Educate yourself using trusted websites online (WebMD, MedlinePlus, etc). Do NOT bug your doctor with every crazy 'miracle cure' you read about online though.

7. Learn English - Sorry, that may be a little harsh, but the more you know (of English), the more you'll know about your disease, and the healthier you'll be. Sigh, I realize, I am writing this in English so if you don't know it, this will be lost on you, but still, gotta say it.

8. A "medication" is anything that you put in your mouth that is not food/water - Just because you got it from a nutrition store does not meant it cannot affect your body like something you got from the pharmacy.

9. Short, simple answers - The more extraneous things you say, the less doctors hear. The doctor is like Sherlock Holmes, and they are trying to figure out why are you in pain. When answering their q's, try to focus on the basics like: what, when, where, why, how (the "who" is hopefully you). Like Joe Friday would say, "Just the facts, ma'am."

10. Smile! - Doctors tend to be tired and grouchy sometimes. However, it is hard for us to be mad at a happy patient. If you smile, your doctor is likely to smile back. In fact, anyone would: it's simple psychology. Doctors are visibly nicer if the patient seems nice. This is not ideal, but it is true. You should see some of these disillusioned residents when they encounter a pleasantly demented 85 year old grandmother...

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Related Products from Amazon