PROFILE: Stopping doorknob confessions

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

Many of us have been there. You’re in the doctor’s office, listening to her recommendations, answering a quick yes or no to inquiries. She asks if you have any questions — No, you say. Then it happens, she grabs for the door and you blurt out, “Well, I have been having this pain…”

You are not alone. Actually, these “doorknob confessions” are quite common. Whether it is because patients are not completely prepared for their doctor visit or maybe they are inhibited or shy to discuss certain issues with their doctor, many people are not forthcoming at their visits until the doctor is walking out the door.

In many cases, not speaking up could be bad for your health-literally. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the most important thing you can do for your healthcare, is to take an active roll in your healthcare. Being informed can not only help you make better decisions, it can help to reduce medical mistakes, receive a higher level of care, and feel better about the overall quality of your care.

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Dr. Linda Savory, a family practice physician with the Cabell Huntington Hospital Women’s and Family Medical Center said it is important for patients to take an active role in their health care. Taking an active role in your health care can be easy, It’s a matter of preparing for your visit, keeping track of your prescriptions and opening up to your health care provider.

“You need to talk about the most important thing when you first talk to the doctor,” Savory said.

Tell the whole story, she said. It is best to think the problem through and write it down, before you even come into the office. What day did it start? What symptoms were you having, and were you around any one else with like symptoms? Was any medication taken?

“Think it through and write it down,” she said. “What happened from the beginning before you even come into the office.”

In addition to being ready to talk with your doctor, she said, it is also important that you bring to your appointment all medications you are taking or a list of all medications and doses.

“Don’t call them blue capsules and red pills,” she said. “With all the various generics out there its impossible to know a drug with that description.”

In addition to the medicines you are taking, you also need to tell your doctor if you are taking your medicines differently than as prescribed. For example, if you’re supposed to be taking it once a day and your taking it every other day or taking it as needed.

“That can cause a lot of confusion with raising doses or prescribing different medication,” she said.

Savory also said to be sure to ask your doctor about any immunizations you may need. She said the list of immunizations has been enlarged and people may need immunizations into their forties.

Another important thing you can do is to know your family history. Know what relatives had cancer, heart disease, etc. Knowing this information is important and can help your doctor be on the lookout for any possible medical problems that may be prevalent in your family and it can also help your doctor asses the current situation. Dr. Savory noted she believes this is a weak point with patients.

If you are experiencing pain, be prepared that all pain is not answered with narcotics. Fibromyalgia, an arthritis-like disease, is best treated with nerve medication, according to Dr. Savory. Pain medication is not always the best source of treatment.

At times, when we think of going to see our physician, we think of only the physical problems we are having. Also important, said Savory, is being honest and upfront about any and all emotional problems you may be experiencing. Knowing these things can help the doctor help you. Tell the doctor if you are not sleeping or not at the top of your game, Savory said.

“People often assume the doctor is not interested in any emotional problems or stress you may be having — but we are,” she said.

Patients can help to make their health care experience a positive one by doing their part for medical management. Prescriptions can only go so far, Savory said. Patients also need to do their part by addressing diet, exercise and behavioral issues as they can. If the doctor says you need to quit smoking, enter a smoking cessation program; if he says you need to lose weight, work of changing your dietary and exercise habits.

Lastly, be preventative in your health care. Not only through proper diet and exercise, but by making regular trips to your physician, getting the tests you need and basically just taking charge of your own health.

“It’s important that you are preventative in your health care, seeing your doctor regularly to take advantage of prevention,” she said. “Don’t wait for three years and then go to the doctor, that‘s three years worth of bad habits your doctor will have to deal with.”

Implementing these small changes into your health care routine can make a big difference in your quality of healthcare. After all, who better to be an advocate for your health than you?