Doctor, can you please spell the name of that disease? Is it chronic? What are my treatment options? Should I be seeing a specialist or are you the doctor to treat me? Should I seek a second-opinion? Are there additional diagnostic tests I could undergo? Can it lead to additional medical problems? What medications must I take? Are there generic versions of those drugs? What is an autoimmune disease? How did I get it? Will my children develop it? Should I have children with this chronic, autoimmune disease? What’s the future prognosis? Are genetic treatments being developed? What about stem cell treatments? What about experimental medicine? Can I get into a medicine trial? Are my options greater if I go to Europe? My insurance requires “Prior Authorizations” for those tests, can your office help me with them? Am I disabled? How do I apply for federal disability? Do I have to pay for the medical qualifying letters you must write on my behalf?
How invasive is the surgery? What about the anesthesia? How much pain will I be in after the surgery? Should I consult with a Pain Management Doctor? How long will I be in the hospital? What determines how long I stay in the hospital? After discharge, what are the danger signs I should look for? What are my physical restrictions? I have a problem with that medication, what substitute can you give me? Do I now have a higher probability of getting cancer because of this diagnosis? What can I do to lessen those chances? Should I change my diet? Should I hire a nutritionist? Why was I treated in the hospital by a “hospitalist” instead of you? Can I just stop taking that medication or must I wean off if it? If the side effects are so horrific, why must I take that medication? You are offering me very difficult treatment choices, how do I choose one? Will you choose one for me? What has worked best with other patients facing the same medical problem? May I use medicinal marijuana to treat the nausea? How do I get the disease? Should I see a psychologist or a psychiatrist? What is the difference between the two?
I want to try the medication I saw advertised on TV; may I? Why not, it seems to be a panacea? This is what I’ve learned in the Internet, what do you think? What are the best Internet sources for my disease? Why can’t you recommend one? What does patient-centric mean? Why can’t I take pictures inside the hospital? Why must I follow you out of my hospital room to finish asking you questions? Why are the agreed upon medical orders not carried out after you leave my hospital room? What’s the best Smartphone App for my disease? Why can’t you recommend one? Who can? May I text you with simple questions? May I get a copy of my blood work? Can’t it just be automatically sent to me, as it is my blood after all? My child feels as if there is no “plan” in the manner in which his autoimmune disease is being treated in the hospital; what is the plan? The pain medication helps, and I appreciate it, but what is treating the underlying illness? Is there a national organization for my disease? What type of patient support programs are available for me? Can you recommend me to another one of your patients who’s willing to speak with me before you operate?
What about alternative medicine like acupuncture? What about over-the-counter supplements? Why don’t you believe in them when I read so many positive patient stories on the Internet? Why must I make an appointment when all I have are a few questions? Why don’t you have a website? What is a Nurse Practitioner? What is a Physician Assistant? What is the difference and why am I seeing them and not you? Is it time for me to change doctors? Would you tell me when it is time to change? How many complex cases like mine have you treated? Which doctors cover for you when you are not working like on certain nights and holidays? May I meet them? Are my electronic medical records safe? If something happens to me on vacation in California how long would it take to get them my electronic medical records? Should I be keeping a food diary to try and help you figure out what’s causing my problem? How do I handle the depression from the medication?
I could go on and on as a 30-year Crohn’s Disease patient who’s undergone 25+ surgeries, 200 hospitalizations and countless “state of the art” treatments. I’ve been hospitalized in local hospitals, disease destination hospitals and world renowned facilities and the patient’s right to ask questions is, by far, the most powerful tool in medicine, even in this age of ePatients, brilliant mobile health initiatives and the seemingly endless stream of technological advances. However, maximizing the strength of this patient tool is 100% dependent on maintaining a respectful relationship with your healthcare provider. This means you must always be considerate of his or her time. I’ve been able to do this by writing out my questions beforehand and having someone else at my side when the answers are given to me. It also helps to organize EVERYTHING from simple blood tests to operative reports. Purchasing a Scanner will enable you to do this efficiently.
The health CARE burden has now shifted from the doctor to the patient. Physicians are still certainly responsible for treating medical problems but patients are responsible for their well-being, to the extent that is humanely possible. Asking well thought-out questions and organizing the information obtained is essential. To that end, a command of the latest technology advancements is important as different devices such as a Smartphone, Scanner and Medical App will make the patient’s new burden easier to bare.