Relationships matter. Good relationships have a mutual investment in time, energy and compassion. It’s the way we express our involvement and when, over time, the scale tips out of balance, the relationship falters. It may be intentional but it’s always a shift that benefits from communication.
So even though we maintain many different relationships, what we expect from our dry cleaner is not what we would expect from our best friend. Yet all relationships are invisibly tethered by an agreement of respect and a willingness to interact.
Our patient-doctor relationship holds these same principles. In addition to respect, there is deep seated trust because we are seeking his/her professional expertise in our personal health care. This is an important relationship yet why do some people fail to take responsibility for it? Why respond passively, inaccurately or impatiently when you can actively engage with your physician and participate in your own care?
Dr. Don Friedman recommends that patients do away with their sense of powerlessness and advocate on their own behalf. “There is a therapeutic sense of control”, says Dr. Friedman, “when a patient participates in his health care”.
He suggests 4 approaches to maximize your doctor visits:
1. Prior to your office visit, make a list of all the questions you need to ask and all the information you need to share.
2. Be sure to express your concerns about your medical issues. If your doctor doesn’t know about them, your doctor can’t help.
3. Clarify your understanding of all aspects of your illness: lab results, symptoms, life style changes, etc. Ask if you need more information.
4. Understand the instructions you are given and the responsibilities you have for managing your treatment. Repeat the instructions back to your doctor to ensure you’ve interpreted them correctly.
This is common sense yet sometimes our inner self makes it difficult while our outer capacity for organizing can also be an issue. So create tricks for yourself to get in the game of having a proactive relationship with your health. Keeping a journal helps with both the inner and outer turmoil. Decorate it, flag it; stream your thoughts, doodle. Personalize it in a way that makes it important to you and provides positive feelings each time you make an entry. Make sure that it is in a place that is easily accessible. It will be helpful to create a separate section for health notes and remember to always bring it on visits to your doctor.
Learn to be an advocate for yourself; you deserve the good results.
As Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel Prize winning physician said:
The witch doctor succeeds for the same reason all the rest of us doctors succeed. Each patient carries his own doctor inside him. They come to us not knowing this truth. We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work.