Medical Tips: How To Be An Informed Patient

Patients must be involved in the treatment and care of any illness. Information to help you understand diagnosis and ask the write questions about medication.

It has become increasingly important for you to be an informed patient involved in the treatment and care of any illness that you acquire or possibly that of a loved one who is unable to care for themselves. Never totally relinquish your care or someone else's to the doctor - this could mean life or death or more damage to your body than necessary! There are pertinent questions you will want to have answered by the doctor or by doing your own research.

It has never been more important to be informed and knowledgeable about your medical care. Forty years ago we stayed with the same doctor for generations, often passing a devotion for a certain doctor down to our children. Not anymore, with changing health plans and switching doctors the way that we do these days, you may be the only constant factor in your medical care. Besides, no one knows your body the way that you do. And, no one knows your past medical treatment, care and diagnosis better than you.

It is normal and expected to question your doctor and get second opinions on medical treatments and diagnosis in the United States. Many patients in other countries still rely and relinquish all medical decisions to their doctor. The American College of Physicians has stated that all patients have the right to be informed and knowledgeable about their medical conditions, prognosis and various alternative treatments. This is a big change from the 1960's when most doctors did not tell patients they had cancer. Keeping patients ignorant is still quite common in many countries.



People who are in tune and educated about their disease or condition have shorter hospital stays, less complications, have less stress related to the treatment, and feel more satisfied about their care, according to the Joint Commission on Health Care. You can feel confident that you are not allowing a doctor to do something to you that can result in something you are not prepared to deal with. You can also be sure that you are not getting pushed aside and ignored if you demand to be educated about your health condition. You will also feel that you have explored every avenue of treatment possible for yourself.

To be a better informed patient you must use communication as a tool. It is most important that you ask questions of your doctor and as many health care providers that you can. Getting accurate answers that you can understand is very critical. You might feel uncomfortable asking questions because you think your doctor does not have time to answer them. But, you have the right to ask the questions and get them answered. It is a good idea to take notes or have someone with you while asking questions so you do not forget what the doctor said, or, get confused once you are home thinking about his answers.

In asking questions you might find out that your doctor does not know all the answers. It is impossible for every doctor to know every new development in all the diseases and conditions that occur in this world. This is especially true in these times with new medical technology and advancements in medicine being so rapid. Your doctor might have to research to find out the answers to your questions, and this is a good thing.

Some of the questions you should ask are:

What caused my health problem?

How can it be treated?

Is there more than one way of treating it?

How long will I have this?

Will I need medication?

Will the problem reoccur?

What lasting problems, if any, will I have?

What kinds of tests will I have?

What are the tests for? What do the results mean?

How long will it take for me to recover?

Is there any lifestyles changes I can do to stay healthier?

In addition to asking questions, you should do some research about your health condition on your own. Go to the library and look for books about your health problem. Use the Internet to find sites related to your problem. Government organizations, researchers, consumer organizations, doctors and schools all maintain websites on thousands of health conditions. You can also find egroups, bulletin boards and mailing lists that exchange information on just about any health problem there is. You can exchange information with other people who have the same health problem you do and learn about the treatment options they may have tried.

If you have to have surgery you will be required to sign the Document of Informed Consent. This agreement is an understanding that a patient has the right to know the risks, benefits and alternatives of any medical therapy before making a treatment decision. Informed consent should mean that a patient and doctor are working together to make them well again. When you are signing the legal informed consent document make sure you understand what it means. It should present a list of the risks associated

with the procedure. Take the time to think about the treatment you are consenting to. Do not rush into treatment unless there a real emergency to do so.

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