Why don’t smart people ask better questions of their health care provider?
As a nurse, I am always amazed at what friends and acquaintances want to disclose to me about their health. I was talking to a businessman friend the other day about a health concern that has popped up for him (literally and figuratively!) He told me he noticed pain in his groin when he was exercising and sometimes noticed a bulge. It was only because the pain had started to impact his productivity that he was considering making contact with the health care system.
For many, the first step would be to find an internist. Many people 40 and under don’t have a regular, primary care doctor (or internist) and thus start the process out by trying to find a care provider in their network. According to Dr. Basu at Doctor on Demand, the reason that the concept of a relationship with the same doctor is not subscribed to is because there is often a delay in getting into see a physician. Millennials are more interested in instant gratification.
It is best to establish a relationship when you are not sick with a care provider who can be your go to person.
If you are lucky the buck stops with this first step and a diagnosis and treatment ensue. If a second step is needed, it means that a referral for additional testing or to a specialist is next. The specialist is most often an affiliate of the physician. Whether this means it is the right choice for your particular situation is another thing.
For this Silicon Valley exec, the next stop was a general surgeon, a specialist. He was provided a name and phone number for a surgeon and he asked no further questions. Still in the diagnostic phase, he marched through the steps of getting a second appointment. To him, it mattered more how soon he could be seen than who it was that would see him. In many situations that is satisfactory, since some surgeries are not complicated. So when he learned that he had a hernia and it could be surgically repaired, he was ready to move forward.
Questions About the Medical Procedure
Are any of you wondering what kind of hernia it is? Or whether there is any variation in the surgical procedure from practitioner to practitioner? Or what the potential complications of the surgery could be? These are all important questions that will put you in a position of being more empowered. Many patients do not ask additional questions because of fear. They want to trust that the doctor knows best and would tell them what they needed to know. In all fairness, the health provider should have provided answers proactively to all the above questions in the spirit of patient education.
Maybe the surgeon did provide the relevant information, but you as the patient were so overwhelmed by the information, the terminology and even the logistics going forward that you didn’t register any of it. It only mattered that you heard that a surgery could eliminate the problem that was causing the pain. Is that enough said?
If you took your car to a mechanic how much diagnostic information would you request? Would you blindly trust what ever was reported to you? Would you ask for written information so that you could understand the problem better or would you pay the bill and move on?
I think the ownership is on us to become informed patients, to seek to understand and not just blindly accept. If the human body was as simple as an automobile and the repairs were as straightforward, then I could understand the blind trust in the system.
Whether you have a new health challenge, or are preparing for a routine procedure or researching options for an ongoing concern, here are 5 things to consider:
Five things to do when you have a new diagnosis:
- Confirm that you know specifically what the diagnosis is. There is lots of confusion around terms and it is important to know exactly with what you are dealing.
- Verify that the practitioner that you are seeing for this diagnosis is aware of all the medications you are taking.
- Ask whether there are alternative courses of treatment to the one proposed. Often there are options that can include watchful waiting if you are of the opinion that less is better.
- Consider how impacted your normal activities are by the condition. What do you need to do to return to an acceptable level of health?
- Inquire of the care provider whether this is something that is commonly seen. If it is unusual at all, consider a second opinion.
Making the best medical decisions means being informed, and knowing what questions to ask is the first, most important step.