Unless you’re a patient dealing with a medical issue that has not yet been successfully diagnosed and treated, you might not be easily convinced of the advantages of taking charge of yourself as a patient. Gathering copies of your pertinent medical records, writing up a health summary, creating a chronology of events which includes a list of physicians seen and the interventions each has tried, can seem like an unnecessary task–until a medical condition or disease hits.
I talked to a good friend a couple of days ago who had been treated by a new gynecologist for a suspected bladder infection. Two antibiotics later, (one prescribed by a doctor on call for the new doctor who was away) she was still in pain and the cluster of symptoms had not abated. When we spoke, she said she was going to see the new gynecologist again and possibly her internist as well. She seemed a bit overwhelmed and possibly frightened about the ongoing symptoms and the absence of an accurate diagnosis.
I told her that first, before seeing either doctor, she had to put together a health summary, something I describe in my new book, The Take-Charge Patient. I explained that her health summary had to identify her symptoms and where they were located in her body, their frequency and duration.
Next, I told her to list the name and dosage of the first antibiotic she’d been prescribed and which physician had prescribed it for her. Then, list when the second antibiotic had been introduced, it’s name and dosage and which physician had prescribed it for her. Unable to remember the names of the medications, she said, “I think I threw the bottles out since I’ve finished the antibiotics.” I suggested that she call her pharmacist and ask for what she needed. I also urged her to get a copy of the test results from the first physician she saw.
This packet of information would be presented to each doctor. I explained to my friend that taking charge of her medical information in this way would not only support her doctors’ efforts but it would help her feel more empowered as a patient and reduce any helplessness she felt.