It's Your Body

By Chelle Cordero

November 14, 2012 5 min read

It is your body and your life. It is your right and your responsibility to take an active role in the management of your health care. Local health care providers are educated in the field of medicine, but they still need the important information and interaction that you, the patient/consumer, can offer in order to make concise and beneficial judgments and diagnoses. Your emotional attitude, including trust, toward the doctor and the treatment can have a crucial effect on your overall health.

Some tips experts suggest to help you get the most from your health care treatment include:

--Give information; don't wait to be asked. You know best how you are feeling; tell your doctor. Bring a fully updated and current health history and a list of medications, including dosages and frequency. It is especially important to have this information on hand if you are seeing more than one doctor (i.e., specialists). Make sure you request all lab reports and X-rays be sent to each one of your attending physicians.

"Doctors only have so much time to spend with their patients, and they're not mind readers. I always bring a list of questions for my doctor, and I was surprised to learn most people don't come as well-prepared,'' said New York politician Andy Spano.

When you are visiting a new doctor for the first time, make sure you make it easy for the doctor to "get to know you." Prepare your family health history, as well as your own. Sometimes genetics play a significant part in health issues. Make note of any unusual and recent changes in your weight, activity level, mood and strength.

--Ask questions. If you don't ask questions, the doctor may assume you understand your treatment and options even if you don't. Make a list of your concerns before your appointment so you don't forget to speak to the doctor about anything that is bothering you. Bring along a friend or family member to sit in on your discussions, take notes and ask for brochures or other patient literature.

--Follow up after the doctor's visit. Call with questions or any changes to your condition. Schedule appointments for tests or specialists without delay. Make sure you understand what the tests are for, and call for your results if the doctor does not call you in an expected time period. Don't be afraid to ask for a second opinion. If surgery or other treatments are recommended, be sure you understand what the hoped-for outcome is to be.

"Communication, the interchange of factual information between patient and their physician, is not just very important; it is essential," according to a paper by Aiysha N. Audil and John D. Shaw.

Here are a few questions to ask your doctor. It is not a complete list and should be adjusted to your individual needs and the reason for your doctor's visit. Keep asking questions until you understand what is wrong with you and what you need to do to get better.

--Understand your diagnosis:

What is wrong with me?

What treatments are available to help me get better?

Where can I get more information about my condition?

--If you need a lab test, an X-ray or another kind of test, ask your doctor:

How will the test be done?

Will this test provide accurate results?

What are the benefits and risks of the test?

When and how will I receive the results?

--If you receive a prescription for a new medicine:

What is the name of the medicine?

What is it supposed to do?

When should I take the medicine, and how much should I take?

Does the medicine have any side effects?

--If you need surgery:

What kind of operation do I need?

How invasive will this surgery be?

What are the risks of the operation?

How long will it take to recover?

What will happen if I don't have the operation?

Are there any alternatives to the operation?

Where can I get a second opinion?

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