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Speak up for good care. How to get the healthcare you deserve.

Sep 4, 2010

Lately, it seems as if all we can discuss id healthcare. So many hard-to-digest changes are taking place that it’s easy to feel confused. Add to that the fact that many of us feel as if our treatment is sub-par, and it seems as if the system is fighting against us rather than for us.

If you share any of these feelings, fear not! You can prepare for a change and you can actively participate in your own healthcare reform. It starts with a simple conversation.

Likely you go to the doctor for easy visits such as the flu or your yearly check-up. However, you may be less likely to visit if you have a list of chronic symptoms that won’t go away but may not have been properly diagnosed. You might tend to blame this on your doctor and end up frustrated. But it might not be the fault of the doctor or the system. You silence could be the biggest issue.

Many patients fear total honesty, or they don’t want to be judged by their doctor, or they forget to mention certain symptoms. Remember that you are in control at your office visit, and while your doctor does not have hours to spend being a therapist, he or she should have time to really listen to you and figure out what is ailing you.

The following recommendations should help to make your visits to the doctor’s office smoother.

Scheduling. When making your initial appointment, ask the receptionist if you can have an appointment before lunch, but not the first appointment of the day. You doctor needs to maintain a strict schedule and will have to be more deliberate at the very beginning of the day just in case all of his or her appointments show up that day.

Preparation. Think about why you are actually scheduling this appointment. What does your pain feel like and to what degree is it hurting? Is it a sharp, shooting pain? Is there swelling? Once you establish the best way to describe your ailments, write them down. Bring this paperwork with you.

Arrival. Do not show up late. Get there at least 20 minutes early. You may even get in earlier if the appointment before you is a no-show. At the very least, if you are on time, you are making sure you maximize the time you have with your doctor.

Appointment. When you are with the doctor, be specific and brief, and know what ailments run in the family. You doctor may not need to hear about your pets pr job, but he or she does need to hear about the persistent pain in your lower back. Also, while some descriptions can be embarrassing or the events leading up to an injury (i.e., the reason for the visit) are not something you want to openly share, these details can help your doctor diagnose and treat your problem. He or she has most likely heard it all, so be honest.

Requests. Do you know what you want in regard to treatment? Did a friend of yours recommend a certain medication? If your doctor does not agree with what you have requested, he or she will tell you that it is not advisable. Ultimately, you’re going to go home and choose to follow what you wish. The doctor can only suggest treatments.

Treatment. Follow what you are told by your doctor fully. A common mistake that people make is deciding that the medicine described has already worked and so finishing the dosage is a waste of time. Your doctor wants you to fully heal, not just kind of feel better. Do not self-medicate. If you feel as though the medicine is no longer necessary, call your doctor and ask what is recommended.

Follow-up. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the doctor or nurse on staff, particularly if you are having a reaction to a medication.

Remember, at the end of the day, your doctor is there to help you. Physicians are able to practice medicine because patients require care. They are not fighting against you, but rather for you. Keep in mind that you can at any point switch healthcare providers (based on your insurance company’s rules and regulations) if you are unhappy. The doctor/patient relationship should be enjoyable for both parties, but you need to be proactive and fight for your rights.

The CostCo Connection. August 2010.


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