|From personal experience and accounts from patients, it seems that physicians are busier than ever. In addition, many of us have more that one physician addressing our healthcare needs (e.g. internist, rheumatologist, cardiologist, etc.) To make things even more challenging, some live here seasonally, and utilize physicians in different geographical areas. These circumstances make it difficult for healthcare providers to collaborate with each other and provide the patient with the most optimal care. It is imperative that we as individuals play leading roles in our own care. After discussing this with many of my patients, I am offering some guidelines on how to do this:
- Keep a journal. At a minimum, include your name and contact information, the name and contact information of all of your physicians, a list of your current medications and dosages, any allergies (food, medications, latex, etc.,) and your past medical history (illnesses and surgeries.) Other information that is extremely helpful is a log of all visits with your physicians and other healthcare providers. Include a summary of their discussions with you, and a description of any complaints that you are currently experiencing (e.g. location of pain and specifically when you get it.) Also, try to get copies of any tests, reports from MRI’s, and blood work.
- Educate yourself on any condition you have, procedures you might consider, and any medications you take. The web is an excellent resource, as are pharmacists, your local library, and literature that health care providers may distribute in their office.
Take this information with you to every medical appointment. You will find that it will save time when you fill out paperwork, and allow you to give an accurate account when you are speaking with your physician. Empower yourself and ask questions about suggested treatments (risks, benefits, side effects, etc.) Realize that your team of physicians may vary on treatment recommendations for you. It is ultimately up to you to decide what is best.