My last post was about Lisa Nash, a breast cancer patient who found out six months after her tumor removal surgery that she had metal placed in her breast without her knowledge or consent. Lisa is an extremely articulate woman who, in addition to being a software specialist and the mother of two daughters, has training in counseling and patient advocacy. If Lisa had difficulties getting her doctor to listen, what hope is there for the rest of us?
The bad news is that we may not be able to eliminate every negative experience. The good news it that there are some practical things you can do at your next doctor's visit to advocate for better care. Here are five:
1) Ask questions. Always start by asking for your diagnosis. What is it that you have? If your doctor can't tell you a diagnosis, what is it that you're treating?
2) Know what questions to ask. Do your research. There are many websites for your condition or your symptoms. Not every website is going to present accurate information, but looking through them will help you build your knowledge base and help you formulate questions.
3) Don't be afraid to challenge your doctor. If there is something you don't understand, ask about it. If there is something you don't agree with, speak up. Be respectful, but also remember that it is your body, and your doctor is there to help you.
4) Know the plan and ask about alternatives. The benefits and risks should be clearly explained to you, along with alternatives to the treatment plan. Informed consent means that you need to understand exactly what is happening. The doctor is busy, but this is your body and your health at stake.
5) Insist on being a partner in your care, every step of the way. You doctor will have more medical expertise than you, but you are the expert about your body.
I will continue to write articles about your stories and offer advice for you. Some more tips are on our website. As always, I welcome your feedback and comments on this blog post.