December 2002

Bring a friend to the doctor's office

We each want different amounts of information about our health or illness. Some people want only the basic facts and leave decisions to their health care provider. Others want all available information and research their options so they can make the decision with their health care provider.

However, research indicates that more informed consumers receive better care. Sometimes it helps to take someone with you who can act as your informed consumer when you are not feeling up to it.

Jim almost severed his hand at work. He was rushed to the hospital and into surgery. It was expected that after a number of surgeries and a rigorous physical therapy schedule, he would be able to use his hand again. Sharon, Jim's partner, visited him daily at the hospital.

Jim did not want to know much about what had happened to his hand -- he was more concerned with just feeling better. Sharon wanted to know every detail of his progress. She thought that knowing more about his condition would help Jim get better faster. The doctors and nurses told Sharon the important things Jim needed to know to help with his recovery.

When we are sick or hurt we are not good consumers. We are more concerned with getting better than with getting information. Jim was lucky to have Sharon ask questions and learn about his condition. She was able to get the information he needed for recovery while he was busy coping with the injury itself.

It is hard to take care of yourself when dealing with a health problem. Bring a friend or relative and have them help you find out the information you need. If possible, review your questions with them with them before the visit. Remember that an informed consumer receives better care.

In preparation for a visit to a health care provider:

  • Make a list of the information you want and need from the visit,
  • Take a family member or friend with you to the visit and make sure they have your list of questions,
  • If any diagnostic tests are ordered (e.g., blood tests, x-rays), find out what they are for and what results are expected.

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Check back next month for more Personal Stories.

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