Recently I read a story about a teenager who had chest pain, was treated for inflammation, and ended up having a fatal blood clot. I was devastated, as a mother, a doctor, and just a fellow citizen. While I did not treat, and have no relationship with the teen), I know that medicine is not, and will never be an exact science. As I doctor, I know that unfortunate things happen sometimes to our patients, even when we do our very best. The human body and its workings are complex. Nonetheless, here are 4 ways one can try to reduce chances of bad health outcomes.:
Be engaged and involved in your medical care. I don’t mean one becomes a doctor, who does not have the training. I simply mean that one should really pay attention, ask questions, get familiar with details and such. Taking a notebook to an appointment and writing down details, is one way to be engaged. Keeping a log of symptoms, date and time, and other details, can be another way. One must not leave anything to chance, or expect the doctor to be the only one keeping track of things. Optimal medical care should include both an engaged patient and an attentive physician.
Disclose in full and provide updates. Remember that every single symptom or test finding can be caused by so many things. Some findings can be watched, while others may need treatment NOW. It will help your doctor to know your prior history, your family history, your medications, any herbs or recreational drugs you use, and some personal habits. Illnesses can run in families. A breast lump in a 30 year old woman may be more likely to be cancer if her mother and several maternal aunts had breast cancer. Someone who uses some recreational drugs may be more likely to have heart blood vessels constrict, causing something like a heart attack. These are a few examples. Of course such a list can be quite extensive but most doctor offices have forms one can fill in. It is important to be truthful and as detailed as possible.
Make a habit of reporting back immediately if not improving. In medical school, I recall being told that “common things are common.” This means that a 15 year old with shortness of breath after exercise may be treated for asthma which is more likely than a blood clot in the lungs. On the other hand, a 70 year old man with the same symptom, is more likely to have a blood clot than asthma. Still, if the initial treatment does not help, it is important to report back immediately. Your doctor wants to know that you are feeling better with his/her prescribed treatment and if not, he/she wants to know in order to consider other possibilities. It is important to remember that every single symptom can be caused by several possible conditions.
Consider a second opinion consultation. This never hurts. Whenever uncertain, or wanting another evaluation of a situation, one can ask for a referral for a second opinion consultation. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that your physician will be willing to refer you, and very happy to collaborate in your care.
Question: Are there any other methods you have used to improve outcomes in your care? Feel free to leave a comment below.