As a Boomer, you may experience some confusing, and sometimes complicated, healthcare issues. Like many people, you may feel overwhelmed by your inability to fully understand matters that pertain to your health. The best way to gain more confidence in your comprehension, and management, of your healthcare concerns is to communicate clearly with your doctor or healthcare professional. You can do this in a very simple and straightforward way – ask questions. Here are 10 of the best questions you should know the answers to regarding your healthcare.
Participate in Your Healthcare – Ask Questions
For many people, going to their doctor, even just for an annual checkup, often produces anxiety. Even though you might feel fine, part of that anxiety is fear that your doctor will find something in your exam or lab work that wasn’t there last year. The other part of your apprehension has to do with feeling like you have no control over your health or healthcare. The truth is that you have more power over your health than you think.
One of the best ways you can take charge of your healthcare is to become a member of your healthcare team. No, I don’t mean going to work for your doctor. I mean, becoming an active participant in your healthcare. A patient who participates actively in their healthcare is one who:
- Is a compliant patient – you take medications regularly and follow doctor’s advice regarding diet, exercise, rest, etc.
- Keeps regularly scheduled healthcare appointments.
- Is an informed patient. You learn all you can about whatever health issues you have.
- Communicates with your doctor. You don’t just let your doctor talk “at” you; rather you engage in an active discussion with and ask questions.
Many patients are afraid they’ll insult their doctor by being inquisitive. They may think their doctor feels that they’re questioning his advice. Usually doctors won’t be insulted by your questions. In fact, they’ll welcome them. The more questions you ask, the more your doctor feels confident that you understand your health condition and the expected outcome of your treatment plan. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Here are some good questions to start with. Feel free to add some of your own – you can tailor them depending on what information your doctor offers first.
1. What’s my condition/diagnosis?
2. What tests will I need to further study the condition? Lab tests, x-rays, nuclear imaging studies (MRI, CAT scans, etc), EKG, EEG, ultrasound, other?
3. Please explain my medication to me –
a. How do I take it?
b. What side effects (if any) does it have?
c. Will my insurance cover it? If not, is there a cheaper generic I can take?
d. Will the medication remedy the problem or will I always need to take it?
4. If you need surgical procedures –
a. What will the surgery entail? Is there a video I can watch to understand it better?
b. Will this procedure remedy the problem?
c. What kind of anesthesia will be used?
d. How often have you (your doctor) performed this procedure?
e. Is there an alternative to surgery?
5. Can I opt not to take this medication or have this procedure?
6. Will I need special help at home after the procedure?
7. Will the medication you give me limit, or affect me, in certain activities such as driving, exercising, intimacy, etc?
8. How often do I need to follow-up with you for this condition?
9. What are the complications of this condition/procedure?
10. How will this condition affect my daily life? Fatigue, intimacy/social/work problems, inability to get around, depression?
Remember that many doctors, and healthcare professionals, only see their patients once or twice a year. Therefore it helps to develop a partnership by actively communicating during your doctor’s visit. It will allow your doctor to get to know you as a person, as well as a patient, and better understand your concerns. People tend to remember someone when they’ve had a chance to spend time talking.
If you have language barrier issues, or feel that you don’t understand the medical jargon that describes your condition, ask your doctor for a translator who is fluent in your language and English. In addition, you can hire the services of a patient liaison who will accompany you to your appointments. Patient liaisons are trained in medical terminology and can formulate different questions for your doctor and take notes. Whichever way you choose to do it, actively communicating with your doctor will allow you to feel more confident in managing your healthcare.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor, http://blog.medicare.gov/2011/09/27/10-questions-to-ask-your-doctor-for-better-care/
10 Questions You Should Know, http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/10questions.html