The biggest expert on your health is…
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…You! Doctors obviously know a lot about medicine and disease, but you are the only one who can truly become an expert on your own health. A National Center for Biotechnology Information study shows that people who actively participate in understanding their health are more likely to get and stay well compared to passive patients who only do what medical professionals tell them. That’s why it’s so important to become your own wellness advocate.
How do you do that? Make sure to educate yourself about any health issues, bring specific questions with you to doctor’s visits, and, during the appointment, clearly communicate all of your concerns. It’s easy to forget details or symptoms when you’re in the moment, so doing prep work and having notes is key. It’s also common to not want to “waste the doctor’s time,” which can lead to you rushing and skipping over important information. Don’t do that.
For chronic conditions, treatments and prescriptions can change with each visit. Writing everything down — on paper, a smart phone, tablet or using one of the health tracker apps like Capzule or Abriiz — will make it easier to stay on top of things. That information can also be useful when a doctor asks for your history. Becoming a reliable “historian” of your body gives health care providers a clearer picture of your physical state and gives you a better chance of full recovery.
Here are other things to keep in mind:
- Write down all medications and dosages and tell your doctor everything else you are taking (including supplements).
- If your treatments or prescriptions change, be sure to understand exactly what you are supposed to take and how often. Write it down and refer back later when you have more time to review the notes.
- If you see multiple doctors, be sure to share general details of treatments with all of them. This can avoid conflicts that can be counterproductive to your getting better.
- Come to appointments with questions, symptoms and any other key information written down for easy reference during the examination.
- Ask questions about procedures, tests and treatments until you fully understand why they are necessary for you. Don’t worry about sounding stupid – this is confusing stuff!
- Conduct your own research online about treatments, prescriptions and any other information related to your condition or concerns to make yourself more informed about what approach might be right for you.
Photo credit: ILO in Asia and the Pacific