from Matthew Little
Your body is the first responsibility you gain in this world. You must feed it, clean it, and keep it safe. Unfortunately, many people delegate this bodily responsibility entirely to others when they get sick.
Patients are often seen as passive recipients of treatments. We’re even sometimes told that a “good” patient follows the doctor’s orders without question. However, a better patient understands the doctor’s orders and knows what questions to ask to ensure the best possible outcome for his or her body.
Can I have my diagnosis in writing?
What are the different treatments and their risks?
Are there changes in diet or lifestyle that may resolve or relieve my condition?
Do you mind if I get a second opinion?
Know the Landscape
Your doctor is a key ally in your quest for health, but the practice of medicine does not keep pace with the findings of basic science. Asking questions may not be enough. New discoveries about nutrition, medication side effects, the microbiome, and lifestyle factors are often not factored into the treatments doctors prescribe.
That means that you need to be proactive and learn about your condition and its treatments. You need to find trusted sources of information and watch out for miracle cures offered up by scam artists.
Know Your Body
You know your body better than any other human being—a key advantage over anyone else helping you with your health. But do you pay attention to your body? Do you notice how it reacts to different foods, stressors, or medications?
If you pay attention and keep a record of your own medical history, drugs, health issues, diet, and changes in symptoms, you can better inform your care team—and yourself. You can gain incredible insight that may be the difference between getting an accurate diagnosis and getting pointless tests and taking useless drugs.
Know Your Doctors
You can also run into problems if you don’t have an effective doctor. Or have a doctor stuck in an ineffective system where they spend more time dealing with electronic health records than with patients—an agonizing reality for many excellent physicians. Or have a general practitioner who simply has too many patients because of the shortage of family doctors.
It’s important to make sure you have a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with. Do you feel like your doctor respects you? Does your doctor answer questions and address concerns? Or do you feel they are rushed and too quick to prescribe? Even excellent doctors are now squeezed for time.
Know Your Meds
Mistakes in prescriptions are not uncommon. There are approximately four drug recalls a day, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And when the drugs are fine, they often get prescribed or used incorrectly. You might end up with a drug that sounds like your drug (a common mistake), or get drugs from different specialists that conflict, or mix up your dosage at home, or take it at the wrong time, or with the wrong vitamins or foods. You may also be taking medications for much longer than they are approved for, or overusing over-the-counter medications.
To avoid these, and other problems, you need to make sure you take the time to learn about your medications and recognize how your body changes in response.
A proactive patient can gain a profound sense of ownership over their medical journey. They can move from feeling like a helpless recipient of treatment to being an active and important participant in their medical care. Read on for some further insights to navigate that journey.
Be proactive with your body!