Sunday, November 20, 2011

TIP #3: Key Question to Ask the Doctor in the Hospital (Part 2 of 5 on "How To Get The BEST Medical Care: Insider Tips From A Doc!")

Today we are continuing in the series on my "insider" tips on how to get the best medical care in the hospital.  I hope that the last post on Tip #1: Be A Teammate & Tip #2: Be Concise & Organized made sense and was helpful to you!  

Two of the biggest problems I found last week when being on the patient side of things was that non-medical people need to know:
  1.  what questions to ask to understand what is really going on (today's post)
  2. what things to tell the doctor about themselves to get the best care (BE PREPARED) (tomorrow's post!)

Lets face it.  Some docs are not very good explaining things to patients in layman's terms.  Remember, we M.D.'s have spent so many years studying that we have become an expert in diseases rather than people. I think that things are getting better these days since more focus in our medical education has been on how to improve the doctor-patient relationship.  

Until the doctor-patient relationship is perfected, my advice is to give your doctor a roadmap of questions so they can translate their often brilliant medical skills into layman's data for you to understand enough to be a true teammate for healing.  

Ask us these questions (and follow my advice from the last post on being CONCISE & ORGANIZED to get the most out of each conversation with the doc.)  

The MOST important point is to always repeat back to the doctor what you think you understand AND write it down!!--I'll give you an example on how to do that at the end of this post.  Here we go!

Key Questions To Ask The Doctor:
#1:  If it isn't what you think it is, what else could it be?

#2:  If this was your mother/your father/your child who would you send them to see?  (this was a key question for my family last week because we were in a hospital initially that I wasn't familiar with & my family member needed surgery.  I asked this question to the ER doc QUIETLY & he helped us find the BEST surgeon in the facility).

#3:  When you say that "we have a good chance" what does that mean?  What percentage of patients survive or are cured with this procedure/treatment/etc? (SO important particularly when dealing with a terminal disease or a serious, life-threatening procedure)

#4:  Why do you think this medication is necessary & what side effects does it have?  (piece of advice--many docs will discontinue some non-critical meds immediately if they anticipate or get push-back from the family (to avoid conflict.)  The meds may actually be very helpful--for example, stool softeners/laxatives/pain medications.  I encourage you to follow what they recommend after asking WHY).

#6:  If you REALLY don't want to do something that the doctor recommends ask them SPECIFICALLY what the consequences of refusing the med or procedure will be and why they think it is important? 

#7:  Here are a few more excellent questions from the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ).  They call these the "Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Doctor". Some of these are more applicable in the outpatient setting but they are helpful!  Check them (and AHRQ) out!

Example of Conversation that uses the "team" approach and helps the doc communicate better:  
(I put this together using diseases from a reader's comments & my own experiences with patients--obviously this isn't what actually happened!)  
Patient: Doc I was wondering if it isn't pneumonia than what else could it be?
Doctor:  Well it could be any number of things but I do think it is pneumonia
Patient:  Doc I know that you have years of experience, could you please give me the name of another disease that looks like pneumonia but isn't pneumonia?
Doc:  Well it could be congestive heart failure, but I don't think that is likely.
Patient (repeating back):  So what I hear you saying is that you think it is pneumonia but another disease that can look like this is congestive heart failure?
Doc:  Yes, that is correct.
Patient:  Hmmm well doc I think I forgot to mention that a few years back I saw a heart doctor that said my heart wasn't very good (the patient in this example doesn't have the proper written history I mention in Tip #4 (tomorrow's post).  As you can see, this info sheet would have helped them get a lot better care from the beginning)
Doc:  Really, I didn't see that on your history?!
Patient:  Yes, I'm sorry I forgot to mention that in the chaos of the emergency room
Doc:  Well this changes things a bit.  Let me examine the other data knowing this new information and get back to you later this afternoon.
Patient:  Great.  I really want to feel better and it doesn't seem like the treatment is working.  I appreciate you looking into this.

Hope this is helpful!!

Next Time:  Tip #4:  Key Things You Need to Know About Yourself To Tell The Docs:  How to Make A Medical Info Sheet!! 

Coming Up AFTER Thanksgiving:
  • SuperImmunity Foods for KIDS (Calling All PARENTS!)
  • RECIPES & Ideas: Snacks!  YUMMY & Portable Plant-Based Snack Food--all sugar-free, gluten-free & without adding oil or fat!!
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