The Patient’s Duty:
– Know how to communicate effectively with medical staff.
Rudeness will not aid or speed up your care, and there is no 100% success rate for any Doctor, a diagnosis can change based on further tests or second opinion. You are as much responsible for your own body and health as your Doctor is, they will do their job in aiding your health, but you should do the same.
– Know your rights.
I, as have many others, have experienced problems with Doctors who are reluctant to make referrals or give prescriptions, and instead of having a “better safe than sorry” attitude have an “it’s probably not that” attitude. Well, would you rather a suspicious lump shown up in an ultrasound not be tested further because it “probably” isn’t cancer, would save some funding and the GP’s precious time?
No, it is better to test again to get a clearer picture and confirm that it is definitely rather than “probably” not cancer. The most recent story pertaining to this issue was this article about a lady whose husband could have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s much sooner. The Daily Mail is awful of course, but I found the story interesting.
This BMJ article ‘A horse or a zebra?’ describes a medical student who diagnosed himself correctly, but was told by the GP that this diagnosis was unlikely and would not refer him for testing. This is why sometimes insisting, and knowing your rights, can help you reach a positive outcome quicker, you have to stand up for your health.
Prevention is always better than cure, the funding used on tests to aid early diagnosis, vaccinations, and necessary prescriptions save money in the long-term, and can result in less long-term or chronic conditions that require lifelong medications or treatments.
– Know when to call NHS Direct instead of an ambulance or going to A&E.
I have heard laughable stories of ambulances being called out when there is no good reason. A student once called an ambulance because they thought that they were dying. The only thing they were suffering from was hunger because they had been too lazy to cook.
Whilst this is somewhat funny, it is not amusing that people who actually need ambulatory or emergency care are dying because of the high demand to the ambulance service and Accident and Emergency ward. Think next time; is your condition really an emergency? Is there someone who might need the care more urgently?
– Do not waste your prescription – use it or cancel it.
This is an avoidable wastage of money amounting to around £300 million per year. If you are staying in hospital, bring your prescription with you instead of asking for another. If you have an ongoing prescription that is no longer required, contact your local pharmacy or GP to cancel it. Be aware of the dangers of antibiotics, do not insist upon them every time you are ill, resistance can easily build and create further health issues. If you do require antibiotics ensure you complete the entire course even if you feel better.
– Take the time to research risk factors that are preventable.
Does your current diet detriment your health and are you obese? How much alcohol is acceptable? What types of help are available to assist you to quit smoking?
– Make an effort to stay healthy.
This does not mean hours a day at the gym, but a brisk walk now and then, fresh air, the right amount of sunlight. Research shows that just moving every hour can improve your overall health dramatically more than if you are sitting down for hours straight then exercising later.
– Understand your own body; don’t solely rely on someone else to tell you.
Whilst it is true Doctors know more about the workings of the body, they are not psychic and can be wrong (hence second opinion is recommended). I am not condoning the hypochondriac epidemic, which is perpetuated from many symptom checker Internet sites. One tiny Internet search for headaches can lead someone to believe they have a brain tumour. But being aware of how your body functions; what is normal and what is not, is vital.
Learn how to check yourself for lumps and bumps, and don’t put off going to the Doctor if something does not look or feel right, this is how some conditions get diagnosed too late.
Healthcare will perhaps never be “perfect”, but patients can help themselves, and in doing so can help their Doctors. As an example, some patients actually detriment their own healthcare by lying to the Doctor about their smoking, in doing so they jeopardise their own health particularly before and after surgery, where a Doctor’s decision making on further treatments need to include knowledge of whether the person is still smoking, or taking certain drugs.