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You know how whenever your computer is acting up, the moment the IT guy comes to take a look at it, it starts working perfectly?
That’s kind of what it feels like when I go to the doctor. I know everything that’s going on, specifically what’s going wrong, and when I get into the appointment, it seems to fly right out of my head. Which is why the best thing I’ve done for my appointments is keep a running list of questions and thoughts on my phone to discuss at the appointment.
Asking questions and providing feedback are two critical parts of being an engaged patient.
Whether your chosen medium is a notebook or a notes app, show up at your medical appointments prepared to answer “What’s going on?” or “Is something bothering you today?” with your actual experiences. If your hand hurt on Tuesday but doesn’t at your appointment on Wednesday, tell them that exactly.
Provide feedback on any changes in care you’ve had to your doctor. He or she may not think to ask specifically about a change made at the last appointment, and they might not be aware of a treatment adjustment made with a different doctor or specialist, so make notes for those things to bring up. If you have feedback on a treatment that is anything other than “it’s working well,” and you don’t have an appointment on the books, call or message your doctor to let him or her know.
I also find it helpful to provide feedback to my medical device makers as well. For example, my Dexcom rep is very interested in the issues regarding wear that I was having and was able to provide recommendations based on what others have been doing. Often times those involved in developing treatments or gauging interest in new products will also ask for feedback via surveys through services like Op4G.
Ask questions about what to expect and what to watch for when it comes to changes in care. Specifically ask questions about new medications or supplements that a doctor wants you to take. ConsumerSafety.org recommends asking a variety of questions about new medications, including:
- Why this medication versus a similar one? Different medications that treat the same thing may have different side effects, different interactions and just plain different behaviors. With non-medical switching being an issue, make sure you talk with your doctor about whether substitutions or generics are going to be okay.
- What side effects might I expect? What are the risks? Should I report them? In some situations with some medications, the side effects may be worse than the condition being treated! Other times they’re minor. Make sure that you understand the expected side effects, as well as the rare possibilities. Your doctor should also be able to walk you though scenarios in which you should report the issue or seek medical attention.
- Is there anything I should avoid when taking this medication? Doctors are people too and can sometimes forget to warn you about things. For example drinking alcohol with a medication, some medications recommend not drinking while others require not drinking. For example, I was once prescribed a medication that if I drank alcohol while taking it, I would be violently ill. Sometimes even healthy things can impact how a medication works, like a person on certain blood thinners should limit their vitamin K intake, vitamin K is found mostly in dark green vegetables like kale or spinach.
There are a ton more questions to consider when it comes to medications, Consumer Safety also has a list of similar questions for your pharmacist.
Check out other posts in this series: