[If Medicine is a Practice, these are the Guinea Pig Rules: ]
* Please note: the male pronoun is used for expedience only. A physician's gender is irrelevant.
Studies have shown that the average physician actually listens to you speak for the first three to four minutes in the exam room. In that period, he has made a decision. Take advantage of your time.
Be organized, meticulous & concise.
Write it all down before you step foot in the office! And take your notes with you. Facts, not feelings.
Use short phrases, not long rambling descriptions.
Use dates, time, specific symptoms, i.e:
"Tuesday, Jan. 18: Throbbing headache woke me at 3am. Vise-like pain around temples. Worse w/ light and noise. Severe nausea, no vomiting. Unable to work. Lasted approximately 24 hrs."
A doctor's office is not the place for tears (though often it feels that way). Becoming over-emotional is the #1 mistake women (& sometimes men) make in not being treated seriously by physicians. Sad, but true...
If the doctor does not touch you during an office visit, ask that your blood pressure be taken. This may prompt a short physical exam. At the very least, he will spend more time with you.
If the doctor begins to write a prescription, start asking questions & don't stop until you get answers. How long will you need to take the drug? Is it addictive? What are the side effects? Are there interactions with other medications you take? With your birth control method? Foods? Alcohol? Vitamins, herbs, supplements? It is imperative that you get thorough answers and your physician usually will not have time to give them to you. Unless you investigate the drug yourself, especially for interactions, you are taking a big risk with your health. You can find answers from your pharmacist, on the package insert, at your local library or on line. Try any of the following sites:
The best drug interactions checker I have found is here: http://www.drugstore.com/pharmacy/drugchecker.
Be aware that no physician knows how your body will react to a new drug. You are, in effect, a guinea pig. We are all chemically & physically unique, cell by cell, and our chemistries change over time. Life presents risk; medicine certainly does. We take chances every day, but it is a fact to consider when putting an unknown chemical into your body. Could the "cure" be worse than the illness?
Trust your instincts and listen to your body. There is much to be said for intuition.
Always remember that your doctor is only human. He is not a god. He does not know the symptoms of every illness. His memory is not perfect and you are just one of many patients. This is especially true today in the assembly-line approach to medicine of 'managed care'. Fortunately, competition is great in the medical community and there are many good doctors from which to choose, even in a Network. * If you need to change physicians, do not hesitate to do so. *
If a doctor suggests surgery as the first option, even after thorough testing, get a second opinion. Any operation is an invasive body trauma which puts your life on Hold while you heal. Exposing yourself to infection, anesthesia and post-operative complications should be a last, not a first, resort.
If a physician ever prescribes a drug that he should know you are allergic to or forgets why you're there to see him, leave! (Make up an excuse if you feel you must.) Under certain circumstances - like an emergency, these folks work as many hours and get as little sleep as ER residents. One serious mistake in judgment could be lethal to you.
Lastly, be careful with yourself.
DISCLAIMER: While I hope you find the information and suggestions
I have offered helpful, they are no substitute for medical advice.
Locating a health care partner who meets your personal
needs is essential to living a long, happy life.
My life 8-)
Fisher, Greg. Danger in the O.R.?, April 5, 2001, ABC News, Sept. 9, 2002
"Preventing Death or Injury from Medical Errors", Institute of Medicine, Nov. 1999
National Vital Health Care - Statistics System, NCHS, February 1999.
"Health, United States, 1998", HHS Secretary, Donna E. Shalala, Nov. 1998.
Updated May 2003.