Be a Proactive Patient

Note: I am not a doctor. This advice is based on both my own, and my family’s, personal experience with doctors.

When you see your doctor, don’t simply let him or her ask questions. Don’t submit to progress mindlessly through the visit, under your physician’s direction. Get the most out of your doctor’s services by researching prior to visits, and asking questions once you get there; make sure your doctor is on the same page with you as far as goals, ideals, and treatment. There are good and bad doctors — and also some who are not bad, but just disagree with your goals and ideals, and that’s OK. That’s why it’s good we have the freedom and choice to switch doctors if we feel we are not being treated fairly, or just because we want to!

Your doctor, if respectable, will most likely appreciate your increased involvement. When a medicine is prescribed, ask questions and find out if there are other medicines or options. If there is a problem with your body, find out if there are more tests that could be done to shed clearer light on what is happening. Your doctor will be able to better care for you and do his or her job if he/she knows what you want. So know what you want. Be a proactive patient.

Also Note: When doing your own research, it can be easy to find misleading information, especially if you are not searching through peer-reviewed medical literature. It’s also easy for some people to fall into worrying too much while reading online about health, so be careful not to succumb to that trap. But guess what? Some medical students have the same problem. People also have differing opinions on things like “gluten sensitivity” (which I personally don’t believe in; my family actually has an abundance of real allergies, which make the trendy “gluten-free” fad a bit offensive to me, but only because of people who don’t really need to be avoiding it) but know that it’s perfectly OK to have a dialogue with your doctor. You and your doctor should have a good relationship, even when you disagree, and be able to discuss things rationally. Your doctor should never make you feel inferior or stupid, nor should your doctor avoid stating his/her opinion and fail to try and persuade you when he/she truly believes him/herself to be correct.


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