Even the most healthy and fit people may need medical care at some point in their lives. And, with 6 in 10 American adults living with a chronic disease according to the CDC, some people may need to see a doctor more frequently to manage their conditions. Even if you have a long-standing, trusted relationship with a medical provider, it is important to advocate for yourself as a patient so that you can ensure you are getting the highest level of care. Here are some tips:
Share Your Symptoms – And Don’t be Shy
Sharing more details about what is bothering you may lead to better outcomes. There are sometimes very subtle symptoms that come and go, which may seem like nothing but could be very important for your doctor to know about because they could be a sign of something that requires a specific treatment. Before any doctor’s appointment, it may be helpful to keep a journal of symptoms, including the date and time you experience them. If you can include additional details, such as what you ate, what kind of exercise you did, and how much sleep you had, this too can help a doctor determine the best way to move forward. The doctor can decide if more testing might be needed or perhaps some simple lifestyle modifications may be useful. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has a simple template linked here.
Ask Questions to Ensure Confidence
While your doctor may ask you a lot of questions during your visit, don’t be afraid to ask the doctor anything that is also on your mind. Before starting a new treatment, ask the doctor what you can expect. Common questions could include: Should this treatment start working immediately, or will it take time to build? What are common side effects? What side effects should I report to you? Will my insurance cover this or, if not, is there a similar option? Also, make sure that you understand exactly how your medication should be taken – not just when and how often, but also how it should be administered. Should it be taken at the same time as other medications? If it has a novel delivery method – anything other than a standard tablet – make sure your healthcare professional goes through exactly how to take the medication once you get home. If you’re still unsure, often pharmaceutical manufacturers will have patient resources, including pamphlets and videos that can help if you need additional support.
Monitor the Medicine – And Adjust if Needed
Once you have a diagnosis and have started a treatment regimen, it is still important to keep track of how you’re feeling to make sure the treatment is working as intended and to monitor any side effects. If you’re not getting enough relief from a symptom like pain, for example, speak up because a doctor can adjust your dose appropriately – you don’t need to wait for your next scheduled check-up. It may take a few tries to get it just right, but if you view your doctor as your partner, you can be set up for success. If a therapeutic you’re taking causes other symptoms that you haven’t had before, such as constipation for example, then that too may need to be addressed. Also, if you feel as though the medication isn’t for you, do not stop it abruptly or do any tweaking on your own before taking to your doctor because certain treatments may need to be tapered.
“Advocating for yourself is very important so that you can get back to living life and what matters most,” said Tom Smith, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of BioDelivery Sciences (BDSI), a rapidly growing specialty pharmaceutical company working to deliver innovative therapies for individuals living with serious and debilitating chronic conditions. “You don’t always have to settle for strong side effects or treatments that don’t provide the relief you need, so make sure that you have an open dialogue with your doctor so that you can get a personalized treatment approach.”