Real talk time: Have you ever gone to see a doctor and been diagnosed with or prescribed something that didn’t quite feel accurate? This happens; and I’m not blaming doctors here – they have very little time to see each patient and while they are often doing their best to help you, they are not in your body and they are not you. While we of course need healthcare professionals, I think sometimes people forget that it is ultimately up to you to take charge of and advocate for your health because you, yes YOU, are the only one that fully knows your body.
There is a book called “Better Health Care in a Minute (or two)” (Kemper et al, 1993), that provides – you guessed it! – helpful tips for how to navigate health care to ensure that your health is in fact being cared for. Below is the first installment in my version of the “spark notes” of this book because it truly is important for all of us to be leaders in our own health journeys!
How To Be Your Own First Responder:
“The most important thing you can do at the first sign of a new health problem is to watch and record your symptoms”
Record your symptoms and progress:
- Write down what your symptoms are, when you began noticing them, what your vitals are if you have access to checking them, if you have had these symptoms before or if anyone around you has these symptoms too.
- Record any changes to your symptoms as they arise.
- If you do end up needing to see a doctor, this information could be the difference in an educated guess or a correct diagnosis.
Do some research:
This does not mean google your symptoms and jump to worse possible scenarios! But if you are experiencing new symptoms, try seeing what the internet has to say, call an advice nurse (often provided by insurance), call a relative or friend if they have medical knowledge, or even read some health books by experts if you have a specialized concern.
Be prepared when you call your doctor:
- All those notes you wrote about your symptoms? Have them handy when you call your doctor – they will especially want to know dates and timeframes.
- Have your calendar pulled up so you know when you are available for an appointment if they think you need to be seen.
Be prepared for your doctor visit:
- Bring your list of symptoms with you (including dates of onset and changes in symptoms)
- Write down a list of things you want to learn from the doctor
- Write a detailed list of all the medications you are taking
- Write a list of some possible *realistic* theories you may have as to what could be wrong.
- Bring a pen and paper with you so you can write down what the doctor says.
Be realistic about time:
Many doctors have as little as 15 minutes with a patient so that’s why it is important for you to all of these things prepared so you can help make the appointment as efficient as possible. If you think you will need more of your doctor’s time, call in advance and see if you can schedule a longer appointment.
Stay tuned for Episode 2: Health Care Communication!
Written by GUADS staff member Kate with contributions from:
Kemper, D., Mettler, M. & Alves, F. (1993). It’s About Time: Better Health Care In A Minute (Or Two). Healthwise, Inc.