In earlier times, we would have just one family doctor who would be at the beck and call in case anyone in the family fell ill. He was a family member and knew the history of each person in the family. Knowledge of medical history about generations was known and kept as a treasure. But today things have changed. We have different doctors for various ailments and we believe in taking second opinions. Our medical history and records are scattered and the only person who will know it through and through is you. When we speak of being an informed patient, it does mean being informed about what illness you have, but being informed about what questions you need to ask your doctor. It would be dangerous to self diagnose yourself and override the experience and knowledge of doctors. It is good to be informed about symptoms and possible illnesses but it would be risky to conclude and self medicate. A patient can be well informed post diagnosis from a doctor. He / she can search for information about the medications prescribed or the treatment plan given or about the illness they are suffering from. A well informed patient makes it easier for themselves as well as doctors. Provided ahead are some of the ways you can be involved in your treatment without interfering with doctor’s domain.
Becoming An Informed Patient
- Communication is a major part of being well informed. You have the right and need to ask your doctor questions. It may be uncomfortable but it is important that you know what is happening and what is going to be done. It is good to write it down to avoid future confusion.
- It is possible that your doctor may not have answers to all your questions. They will have to do some research and find answers. This is good as it makes it more informative for both patients as well doctors.
- Questions that would be relevant to ask could be related to the causes, treatment, alternative treatment methods, duration of illness, medication requirement, side effects of medication, the tests that need to be done, lifestyle and diet changes required, time it will take to recover and possible recurrence of the ailment.
It has been observed that patients who have done research and have educated themselves on their illnesses have shorter stays in the hospital and are more mentally prepared. Once the patient is knowledgeable they have more confidence to tell the doctor if they are uncertain about dealing with a certain treatment provided. It also gives the patient the satisfaction that they have tried all possible avenues. Moreover, this makes it easier for the doctor as the patient will ask the right questions and communication and understanding will be easier between them.