The perfect patient

sick_girl

Going to see a doctor isn’t normally a good thing (unless your girlfriend is waiting in the car with both your passport or a pair of movie tickets) and for that matter, you should prepare to make the most out of it.

Most people go to see the doctor for various reasons:

  1. You are not feeling well
  2. You have seen the doctor, but are not getting better (perhaps deteriorating)
  3. You are seeking a second opinion
  4. You are going for a routine follow-up on your treatment

Doctors are trained to see certain patterns in your symptoms to diagnose your condition and can do a much better job if you provided them more information other than I’m having a headache. While doctors are the most highly regarded individuals in society, and for good reason: they spend a million years training, are overworked and underpaid, they save lives and bear the burden when they can’t, they may miss a diagnosis, or under-diagnose a patient or even get a diagnosis wrong. In an Australian study, up to 30% of patient harm from GP medical errors were reported (Med J Aust 2002; 177 (2): 68-72). Thus it may be worth your while to put some effort into preparing for your next appointment. Penning down everything you need to tell your doctor also makes sure you don’t forget an important piece of information.

If you are not feeling well, list down the following for your doctor:

  1. What are your symptoms?
  2. When did they start?
  3. What were you doing when it started or what triggered it?
  4. Did they get better over time? Or worsen over time?
  5. Have you experienced this before?
  6. If yes, what triggered it? And how did it go away?
  7. What makes it better or worse?
  8. Are you taking any medication at the moment?
  9. If yes, does it help?

Things you should ask your doctor:

  1. What medication will you prescribe for me?
  2. How long should i keep taking them?
  3. Are there any potential side effects I should look out for?
  4. Are there generic options for the drugs you are prescribing?
  5. When should I expect to get better?
  6. How long should I wait to see you again if I don’t get better?

If You have seen the doctor, but are not getting better (perhaps deteriorating)

  1. List your symptoms AGAIN and any new ones that you notice
  2. Score how much worse they have deteriorated (double the pain etc)
  3. Have you been taking the medication as prescribed? (Be honest)
  4. Has the treatment or medication helped in any way?
  5. What changes have you notice since the last visit?
  6. What makes your symptoms better or worse?

If you are seeking a second opinion

  1. Bring along all your previous investigations
  2. What are your symptoms?
  3. When did they start?
  4. What were you doing when it started or what triggered it?
  5. Did they get better over time? Or worsen over time?
  6. Have you experienced this before?
  7. If yes, what triggered it? And how did it go away?
  8. What makes it better or worse?
  9. What medications are you taking for your symptoms?

Refrain from telling the doctor whom you are seeking second opinion from what was your previous diagnosis and treatment plan offered. Simply because you want an independent opinion and any suggestion may sway his pattern of investigation. Only after he has fully done his assessment, findings and treatment plan should you then discuss the options you now have on your plate with him.

If you are going for a routine follow-up on your treatment:

  1. How are you feeling with regards to your symptoms?
  2. How are you feeling with regards to the treatment and medication?
  3. What are the side effects of the treatment and medication you are experiencing?
  4. Have you notice anything different since the last visit?
  5. If you have been told to refrain from any activities ask if you can now return to them.

I quote John Philpot Curran: “My dear doctor, I am surprised to hear you say that I am coughing very badly, as I have been practising all night”.

If you expect more than that, give them more than that.