LEARN ABOUT THE SCREENING TESTS and TREATMENTS, RECOMMENDED FOR YOUR AGE AND SITUATION.
Public health officials publish regular updates about scientific evidence that certain tests and treatments do, or do not promote wellness, cure illness without doing harm, detect diseases in time to preserve health, or improve quality of life. These “evidence-based” recommendations empower doctors to provide high quality care. Download the checklist, “YOU SHOULD KNOW THESE NUMBERS LIKE YOU KNOW YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER” and the bonus chapter, “HOW TO AGE EXCELLENTLY” from www.drcherylwoodson.com , or follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website www.cdc.gov. These resources can help guide discussions with your doctor.
COMMUNICATE MORE EFFECTIVELY WITH HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS
Be an active partner in your health care.
Recognize that no health professional can keep you healthy alone. Your health is not a passive situation where you either blindly follow instructions, or expect that the doctor will have a “magic wand” to make you better without any responsibility, or changes on your part. Realize that the Internet is a place to get questions, not answers. Much of the medical information on the Internet is marketing, and even when it’s not, the authors cannot make recommendations about your specific situation, your other conditions, and medications that might interact with the product they advertise. Interpreting all of the available information requires a partnership with your doctor. Quiet as it is kept, thirteen years of post-high school education and thirty years of experience trumps your hour on the Internet. Do the research and bring your questions, but if you don’t trust your doctor, don’t believe that she listens to you, takes the time to understand your values, explain your options, and make recommendations in your best interest, find a new doctor. Don’t try to manage wellness or illness by yourself.
Find a doctor you can trust.
Talk to friends and family, or look at on-line, or hospital-based referral sources to find a primary care physician with a reputation for excellent patient communication, who respects patients’ life goals, and is dedicated to helping to achieve them. The doctor should diagnose and treat illnesses based on scientific information about what works and does not work for people in situations similar to yours (evidence-based.) The doctor should also have access to information non-medical resources for education, support, and care planning, which empowers you to be a full partner in staying healthy and out of the hospital.
Ask the right questions; ask the right people
The National Patient Safety Foundation ASK ME 3 program teaches health care consumers to ask:
What is my main problem?
What do I need to do?
Why is it important for me to do this?
I recommend a few more questions.
By when should I do this? (How much time do I have? What do I need to do 1st? 2nd?)
What what happens if I don’t do it? (An informed decision requires knowing your options AND the possible consequences
Whom should I call when I have questions?
This is critical. You need to call the person who can best answer the question. It isn’t effective to ask a hospital nurse about the next steps in a care plan. You need to talk to the attending physician, or in a hospital that teaches doctors, the senior resident. It’s not effective to ask a nursing home nurse to leave questions for the doctor; that information might not transfer for up to a month, but if you call the doctor’s main office and leave the message with the staff (receptionist, nurse, or manager,) you will transfer that information, usually within 48 hours. Even if your loved one does not receive care at the office, it is usually the “command center” of the doctor’s activities, and you can get answers more quickly.
NEXT WEEK: ORGANIZE FORE MORE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS.