Chapter 21: The Responsibilities of a Patient: Quite a Load!
Doctors know only what you tell them - Don Harold
As a patient, you have to shoulder a wide variety of responsibilities, some of which are as follows:
- You should provide your doctor with accurate and complete information about your medical history, past illnesses, allergies, hospitalizations and medications.
- You should report changes in your condition (however minor they may seem to you) to your doctor - dont keep him in the dark!
- If you do not understand what your doctor says or wants you to do, you should let him know without any hesitation!
- You should strictly follow your doctors treatment plan.
- You should keep your appointments on schedule, and if you cannot do so for any reason, let your doctor know well in advance.
- You should pay your medical bills promptly!
- You should follow hospital rules and regulations without fail.
- You should have realistic expectations of what the doctor can do for you. Everyone would like to get well completely, but one should always bear in mind that the doctor is not a miracle worker.
- You should help your doctor to help you! If you cannot stick to a particular treatment plan, let your doctor know, so that he can formulate an alternative plan.
- You should maintain good health habits.
- You should participate actively in your medical care. Patients who are highly motivated get better faster: in other words, help your body to heal itself!
- You should ask questions to clarify any doubts or dispel any misconceptions in your mind. A doctor or nurse may not know when youre confused, uncertain or just want more information. Therefore, do not refrain from asking questions.
- You should respect the doctors and the nurses. The medical staff deserve your respect and courtesy: treat them the way you would like to be treated by them!
- You should not ask for false medical certificates or padded medical bills (in order to get additional reimbursement).
While you obviously have a vital interest in your medical treatment, unfortunately, you lack the specialized medical knowledge and skills to be able to take decisions in this context alone. This is why the concept of a team - which consists of you and your doctor becomes very important. As a patient, your responsibilities are wide and varied. And youll need to play several "roles" at various times.
Medical Information Researcher
The more knowledgeable you are about your problem and its treatment, the better are your chances of getting the right treatment. Educate yourself: you need to become an informed participant in your medical care in order to ask the right questions and to participate in making decisions about your treatment. This step will also help you to critically assess media reports about new breakthroughs in medical treatment, and whether these breakthroughs are relevant to your problem or not.
Medical Team Manager
You will have to find, evaluate, select, hire - and sometimes fire - members of your medical team. As an enlightened patient, you need to remember that you are the one in charge of your body --- and that its your medical team you are managing!
Treatment Decision Maker
You will have to decide which treatment to choose among the alternatives. Sometimes the choices are straightforward, but sometimes they can be very confusing. A good doctor will offer you all the options and help you to decide, but ultimately, you have to exercise your right (and responsibility!) to select a course of treatment. You cannot afford to leave everything to god, or to the doctor either!
Medical Record Keeper
You must keep all your records safely, and this can be very helpful especially if you have a complex problem a chronic disease, or need to change doctors or get a second opinion. File all your records in reverse chronological order; and number all your documents in sequences. Also prepare a one-page summary sheet of your medical experiences. Software packages are available nowadays, which help you document all medical details very efficiently.
Medical treatment, can be very expensive these days, and you must make it a point to know the costs involved. Many patients are hesitant to talk to their doctor about money matters, but this reluctance can prove to be very costly! Also, if you are claiming reimbursement (either from an insurance company or from your employer) you must make sure that you have complete records of payments made along with their receipts.
It is vitally important that you be open and honest with your doctor. When in doubt, ask questions, listen to the answers carefully and take notes. A prudent measure would be to write down your questions before your appointment, so that you do not forget important matters during the stress of consultation. Remember, the only stupid question is the one you dont ask! So, to re-emphasize, dont hesitate to ask questions! And if you dont understand the answers, the fault is not all yours; it could be that your doctor is not explaining the facts well!
There is no doubt that the one person who will look after his own interests the best is the patient himself. You need to do your homework thoroughly, find out more about your problem , and then discuss the results of your research with your doctor. This is your right, and your responsibility as well! Every honest doctor will agree that his patients are his best teachers!