Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why patients need to SPEAK UP !

We all know that in real life, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. This applies in the doctor’s clinic as well,  so the most important rule is – Speak Up ! Questions are the Answer – and the better your questions, the better will be the doctor’s answers !

The “ Speak Up “ Program in the USA encourages patients to:
•    Speak up if you have questions or concerns, and if you don’t understand, ask again. It’s your body and you have a right to know.
•    Pay attention to the care you are receiving. Make sure you’re getting the right treatments and medications by the right healthcare professionals. Don’t assume anything.
•    Educate yourself about your diagnosis, the medical tests you are undergoing, and your treatment plan.
•    Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate.
•    Know what medications you take and why you take them. Medication errors are the most common healthcare mistakes.
•    Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the healthcare team.

This does not mean that you ask questions just for the sake of asking – after all, doctors are busy people and do have other patients to see. The trick is to be inquisitive – and to do your homework ! The only stupid question is the one you did not ask. Asking appropriate questions about your treatment and medicines will help you to acquire knowledge and will also keep the doctors and hospital staff on their toes ( which is good for them as well !) . The more the questions you ask about your treatment, the more careful they will be about what medicines they are giving you and how they treat you . Never take any medicine without asking : what it is, why it is used and what are its side-effects. Remember, there are lots of patients and your physician sees many everyday. There are chances that the staff may confuse your details with another patient. So , the more involved you are in your treatment, the more protection you get from unintentional errors. The more knowledge you gain, the more questions you will able to ask, and the more attention you will get!

Thanks to the internet, it’s become increasingly easier for patients to find answers to their health-related questions online. Learn to use the internet intelligently, so this will help you ask smarter questions – and will also save your doctor time, because your routine questions have already been answered !

Don’t worry if you do not understand everything on the first reading or in the first sitting. It takes time to absorb this information, and analyse it. The good news is that there are lots of reliable websites to help you with Information Therapy. Even better, there are now many expert patients online, who can help you make sense of what is happening to you

A lot of patients are scared to ask their doctors questions.  They are worried that the doctor is too busy to answer them, and they don’t want to waste his precious time. They are also secretly worried that the doctor may take offense at their questions, because he may think that they are questioning his judgment, and this may cause him to get upset and provide poor medical care.

Please remember that your health depends on good communication, and asking questions and providing information to your doctor and other care providers can improve your care. Talking with your doctor builds trust and leads to better results, quality, safety, and satisfaction.

Quality health care is a team effort and you are the captain !  Because time is limited during medical appointments, you will feel less rushed if you prepare your questions before your appointment.

Doctors are not mind-readers , and good doctors want you to ask questions, because they know that the more you know about your medical care, the happier you are going to be with your treatment. Being well-informed will help you to have realistic expectations of the treatment, and increase your satisfaction with the care you get. Remember that if you want VIP care from your doctor, you need to become a VIP – Very well-Informed patient !

Here are some useful questions you can ask.
1.    How will the results of this test change my treatment options ?
2.    What is the natural history of my disease ?
3.    Are there any other alternatives I can explore ?
4.    Which is the best center in the world for this treatment ?
5.    Can you refer to a website where can I learn more about my problem ?

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