Great medical care happens when the patient and his or her medical provider have built a partnership together. The most important thing to remember is that you, the patient, are half of the equation. All the medical knowledge in the world will not help your medical provider give you a diagnosis if they do not know your medical history and all the symptoms you have at the moment.
To develop a successful two-way relationship, first let your medical provider know that you want to be a partner in the decision-making process so that you can receive the best care possible. Tell them that:
• You want to understand their thought process that led to the diagnosis
• You want to know the treatment options
• You want to know why they have ordered specific tests
Health care providers are not mind readers. It is important to share your knowledge of your health problem with them — and you need to be as specific as possible, preferably with the concise, chronological details of your illness. Except in an emergency situation, it is always good to write down key details before your appointment so that you don’t forget those important facts. Details matter. Vague responses to your medical provider’s questions may result in a misdiagnosis.
Your health care provider may want to order lab work and other tests. As the patient, it is your responsibility is to ask the purpose of the tests, if the tests are potentially harmful, and how the tests will help either with a diagnosis or the management of your illness. Ask if there are alternatives — and remember that it is always okay to ask questions if you don’t understand something.
Before you leave any health care encounter you should have a diagnosis of your medical problem, or your provider should at least be able to give you a few possible diagnoses. This is a good time to ask a few more questions, such as what is the natural progression of my illness, or if you have been given a few possible diagnoses, what are the next steps that will help your medical provider narrow it down to one diagnosis.
Remember — as a patient you can receive great medical care by actively building a partnership with your health care provider. If you or a loved-one is overwhelmed with navigating your medical care options, a professional health advocate can help you receive the great medical services you expect