Be Active in Patient Diagnosis and Care

Patient Healthcare and Advocacy

This article gives tips on how to participate in your patient's diagnosis.

Have you received a diagnosis and walk away confused?

When it comes to understanding a treatment or a health condition, and how it affects your body, it's clear that most people walk away with a slew of misunderstandings.

We make false assumptions and believe that pills and surgery will fix a chronic disease, never mind that it might throw their lives into a trajectory of no return to normalcy and good health.

Get Involved in the Diagnosis

People, newly diagnosed with a chronic condition, do not fully comprehend the detrimental effects the illness can have on the body. You simply hear the words, "this disease can cause serious problems" and we move along, hoping we're the anomaly, and the disease won't negatively affect us.

A patient may take for granted, without digging deeper, to learn what lies ahead. If you don't ask questions, you might be surprised - one that's shocking! Don't be unprepared. Become an active patient in the diagnosis and your care.

You'll be glad you did.

Patients living with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or any number of serious chronic illnesses, face a multitude of concerns:

  • learning about treatment options
  • getting the best healthcare
  • negotiating with insurance companies
  • coping with the disruption the illness brings to personal and professional lives

A diagnosis produces a crisis event for both patients and families.

What to Know about Patient Diagnosis

Go beyond your doctor's advice and access other professionals, those who can help you understand the diagnosis. Maybe they can help you mitigate the symptoms.

Seek out a patient advocate, one who offers expertise in access to care, protecting your rights in the hospital, providing communication tips with health care professionals, and helping negotiate the insurance issues.

Learn Better Communication

Prior to the appointment, find out,

"What are the accepted insurance plans? What are my payment responsibilities?"

Checklist of questions to ask the doctor

Make the most of your time with your physician. During office visits, ask the right questions, and share information with your doctor. When you get involved and ask appropriate questions, the interaction will enhance your care.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • In layman's terms, what is my diagnosis?
  • How can I learn more about it?
  • Can you give me reading material that will explain it to me?
  • What community services can help me understand the condition?
  • What support groups can help me learn more or help me deal with it?
  • What are the risks associated with treatments?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of the treatments?
  • Do I have any limitations or directions to follow as a result of my condition or treatment?

Gain Knowledge and Share with the Medical Team

After a diagnosis, become educated. If you feel overwhelmed, that's normal. It's important to understand enough about your condition and how it's progression will affect you. It's also important to know what the healthcare professionals ask you to do and why. It'll help your family members engage in your care too.

Medical history:

  • Past illnesses
  • Surgeries
  • Medical conditions (even those that run in the family)
  • All new and recurring symptoms
  • List of medications, prescription and over-the-counter
  • List of alternative treatments or supplements
  • Your lifestyle, like physical activities, or other's you'd like to do
  • Be honest and upfront - even about those that are personal and sensitive
  • Bring up your self-diagnosis too: the information you found on the Internet or read in the newspaper. (Related to your symptoms or diagnosis)

Tell the doctor that you're interested in what's going on with your disease and that you want more involvement and to learn.

  • Ask the doctor how best to communicate with her and if she is able to respond quickly?
  • Ask the doctor if she prefers a phone call or email?


Your Own Best Advocate: How to be an Active Participant in Your Care

Learn more by reading Talking with Your Doctor - National Institute of Health

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