Patients who are active participants in their own care tend to get the best results. Here’s how to ensure that you get the kind of medical attention you deserve.
VISITING THE DOCTOR
Before you visit a doctor for a specific complaint, write down your symptoms, what triggers them, and other pertinent facts. This way, you won’t forget important details. If you have questions, List the most important ones first.
Be as specific as possible. Saying you have a stomachache won’t tell the doctor nearly as much as describing “sharp pain on the left side of the abdomen when I walk.”
If the doctor begins winding up the conversation before you have asked all your questions or understand the responses, say so. You should insist on knowing the nature of your illness and the steps in diagnosis and treatment.
Make sure you understand your doctor’s instructions. Ask questions, and write down the answers. If you are still uncertain about what to do when you get home, call for further clariflcation.
To avoid being kept waiting, ask for the first appointment of the day or after lunch.
Emergencies do happen that preempt your doctor’s appointments. Call the office before leaving home to see if the doctor is running late.
FINDING A NEW DOCTOR
When looking for a new doctor-perhaps a specialist most people rely on the recommendations of their present physician, pharmacist, dentist, or friends and family members. Tell them the
kind of doctor you are seeking. Are you most comfortable with the take-charge type who likes to try the newest drugs or medical technology? Or do you prefer a conservative physician who follows a cautious “wait and see” approach?
If your company has a staff physician or nurse, ask him or her for recommendations.
If you are moving to a new location and have no referrals from your doctor or others, here’s what to do:
Start by analyzing your needs. Your age, sex, and medical history are critical. If you are a young, healthy woman starting a family, look for an obstetrician/gynecologist who is affiliated with a hospital that has a top obstetrics department. If you have heart disease, diabetes, or any other chronic condition, look for an internist who specializes in your disorder.
Call hospitals in your area and ask whether they have physician referral services. Be sure to tell the referral service what kind of doctor you’re seeking (family physician, internist, gynecologist).
If the hospital does not have a referral service, call the office of the chief of medicine (surgery obstetrics, etc.) and ask for the administrative assistant. This person usually knows the qualifications of department physicians and can provide helpful leads.
when you have a list of names, do some research. At your Local library look for the American Medical Association’s American, Medical Directory or the Marquis Directory of Medical Specialists. These books list physicians by specialty and geographic region and provide other useful information.
After paring down your list to three or four candidates, call their offices. Tell the receptionist why you’re calling; be prepared to call back when someone has enough time to answer all your questions, which should include:
What hospital or hospitals is the doctor affiliated with?
What are the doctor’s hours?
Who covers for the doctor when he or she is not available?
What are the fees? Will you be expected to pay immediately or will the doctor send a bill?
Does the doctor accept insurance, Medicare, or other third-party-payer assignments?
Does the doctor have a preferred time for receiving and returning phone calls?
KEEPING YOUR FAMILY’S MEDICAL RECORDS
Start with a notebook for the whole family, with a section for each family member. A looseleaf binder allows you to add pages easily, but any notebook will do.
Record vital statistics at birth, including the child’s length, weight, birthplace, birth-certificate number, and blood type.
Update the notebook, keeping track of checkups, immunizations, screening tests, illnesses, prescriptions, etc. Such a log can be turned over to your children as they assigned responsibility for their own health care.
Keep a list of anything that seems to provoke an allergic reaction-pollen, an animal, fumes, food. Note the date and type of reaction, such as a rash, sneezing, or wheezing.
When a family member is hospitalized, write down the attending doctor and hospital or another facility. Also, note the medical problem, length of stay, patient’s chart number, treatment, and any medication that is prescribed.
Bring this log when you see a doctor for the first time.
TRACING YOUR FAMILY’S HEALTH HISTORY
Tracking your family’s health history can literally save your life when it alerts your doctor and you to possible illness. Prepare cards, with medical history for all family members.
Concentrate on first-degree relatives-parents, siblings, and children because they have 50 percent of their genes in common with yours. Then move on to grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, and
nephews, with whom you share 25 percent of your genes. Later you may want to add cousins and more distant ancestors. The more detailed your history, the better.
Don’t limit your investigation only to diseases and other illnesses that have proved fatal. A relative may have hypertension, for example, and it may not be life-threatening for him or her, but it may be a serious problem for you.
Don’t assume that you’ll get a disease or condition just because it runs in the family. For example, if family members tend to develop adult-onset diabetes, you can lower your susceptibility by exercising and avoiding obesity.
Hereditary risks vary with the disease and the age at which it strikes; therefore, get an expert to interpret your family’s health data.