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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dear Doctor: My Wish List of Things You Can Do For Me

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...Image via Wikipedia

A few weeks back Dr. Rob wrote a letter to his chronically ill patients that made me wish he was my doctor. I want to give him kudos and positive feedback for demonstrating his savvy and compassion for all of us living with chronic illness. Then I started thinking about some of the issues he raised and found myself wanting to write a response. So here is my wish list of a few things I wish my doctors would do for me:


Do Your Homework

There are a lot of things wrong with me and I would think this fact alone would send you running to your medical textbooks and journals. Yet it appears that you rely on me to educate you about my conditions. Given that you have the medical degree, have been trained to evaluate and apply medical knowledge and
have access to more medical education resources than I do, I don't think I am out-of-line asking that you do your homework.

Talk to My Other Doctors

I think it is time to resurrect the multidisciplinary medical case conference. You know, where you get together with my other doctors and health professionals and spend time talking about my diagnoses and medical care. I'm hoping that if you could get together, it might spark some new ideas and supercharge the problem-solving process. Barring that, could you at least request my records from my other doctors instead of always relying on me to communicate and bring that information to you?

Network with Your Colleagues

I know it's not fair to expect you to have knowledge of everything, so can I ask that you at least have working relationships with other doctors you can refer me to for further work-up and treatment? And what I mean by that is: be acquainted with their work, develop a rapport with them and set up a good patient referral and feedback system with them.

Create a Backup Plan with Me

Like fast-food restaurants and ATMs, healthcare system is one of those things meant to be accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not that I expect you personally to be accessible all the time. It's just that my health can be unpredictable and I often need your help when you are least available. So in the spirit of keeping medical costs down and meeting my medical needs, let's have a conversation about how you'd like to see me approach getting my after-hours medical crises met and what your role will be in the process.

Be the Quarterback

I like that I can bring you medical journal articles and new stories that I find about my conditions. However, please understand the reason I bring these things to you is to get you to engage in the process of critical thinking about my conditions and possible new treatments for them. What I really want is for you to be like the quarterback on a football team, who takes into consideration everything on the playing field and then decides which direction the team will go.

Focus on the Medical

Maybe it's the plethora of advertisements for psychotropic medications on TV, but you seem preoccupied with my mental health. I get the impression that focusing on the mental gives you an out from further exploring the medical reasons behind physical symptoms that plague me. So I want to ask that you please stick with what you know, and unless you are a psychiatrist, refrain diagnosing me with a psychological disorder.

Think Outside the Box

There is a reason why so many of us living with chronic illness are enamored with the fictional Dr. Gregory House. We love how he just doesn't give up trying to figure out what is medically wrong with a patient. He embodies the concept of thinking outside the box, something I wish you would do more of for me. In fact, if you could just address my most troublesome symptoms and make it easier for me to cope with them, you would have my undying gratitude.

What are some of the things you wish your doctor would do for you that they aren't doing currently? You can share your thoughts about this subject by leaving your comment...


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22 comments

Annie said...

What a great article Selena!!!!!

I wish my doctors would do all of these things as well.

Definitely retweeting on twitter :)

Dr. Rob said...

Good work. I think we could work well together. In our defense, other doctors are hard to talk to at times. I get very frustrated that other docs won't accept my email messages about patients so I can give my perspective. But the imperfection of the system makes it more important than ever that doctors and patients with chronic disease work together to give the best care possible. There is no way we can do it without you.

Crayon Wrangler said...

I think the only thing that I would add to that wonderful list (and it is) would be for my doctor to know me as a person. Sometimes what is wrong with us physically can be fixed by someone knowing our backgrounds and personalities.

Great list!!! Good job!

papier et encre said...

Yes, why is it that Doctors seem to prefer to start from scratch every time rather than learn from what your other doctors may have tried?

Mica's Truth said...

I got a wish list and it starts with finding a cure for the pain caused with Lupis.

Carrie said...

i was diagnosed with hodgkin's lymphoma about 8 months ago and my doctors now are amazing but i wish all the doctors i saw in the 6 years before that would have considered it a possibility that i had cancer in my early 20s and not dismissed my symptoms that made me feel like a hypochondriac

Oldergirlbeauty said...

I wish that my doctor had a way to leave him a detailed message after hours - either an email or a message board even, so others could see his advice, too. Too many fear litigation, tho.
Found you thru #31DBBB

Funsucker Extraordinaire said...

Great ideas. I wish my son's doctors would do more of those things too!

Kelley said...

This was such an important article! I eirkbon a major cancer hospital and, thankfully, communication among the various professionals is a good...most of the time. They should print out your post & hand itcto med students!

Ofthesea said...

I wish my doctor were more up to date or that he ahd given me an option regarding the care of my uncircumcised baby boy. I've just been through a HUGE fright and a lot of telling off because of his sucky advice :)

Leslie said...

Y'know, I was a medical transcriptionist for years, so I heard a lot of the "behind the scenes" talk and muttering that conventional doctors had.

I also heard a lot of alternative and naturopathic talk.

Unfortunately, I have to say that the "alternative" doctors are willing to do all of what you're asking - and MUCH more.

Not to say there aren't traditional doctors who care, but paperwork and other red tape really bogs them down in a way that doesn't seem to affect alternative physicians.

See Mom Smile said...

Such great advice!! My hubby is a doc and appreciates those who help themselves!

Prime Beauty said...

This is a wonderful post. I was my mothers primary caregiver and had to work with all her doctors and keep track of all her meds. The one thing I learned is that I knew my mother best and the doctors didn't know her personality and what treatment methods would best suit her. I had to be really aggressive with the docs.

Serenity said...

I definitely can relate to this post, and it is great to see that other with chronic illness are taking a proactive stance in their own recovery, since the current medical community seems more intent on pushing piulls than actually curing patients or even giving people suffering a decent quality of life. Thank you for giving us all a voice.

Anna said...

I feel the same way. It makes me wonder if some of these doctors are burned out (like some teachers in the school systems...but that's another story). You would think an unusual case would be cause to perk up interest and find a result, but sometimes it's not.

Stopping by the 31DBBB!!

Lucy said...

My cousin has suffered from a chronic illnesses. I'm going to send this post to her!

Stephanie said...

I had a scare with my eye this weekend and my eye doctor not only called me back, he called to check on me later that same day. Amazing! And rare. Great post.

Jane in AUSTRALIA said...

Hello,
I just found you through Nivanna Mamma on twitter.
We are in the smae niche.

who I am off to read what you have to say..
Im having a bad day
but then some are having worse.

Tazzy said...

I Love the "FOCUS ON THE MEDICAL" part. Just because we may be sad or frstrated, pissed off or down right indignant about our condition does not make us depressed or ready for the nut house. I get so sick of doctors giving up and then believing something to be mental. Good Lawd, I will tell you when "I" can't handle it anymore this way you can spend your time better trying to find out why I am sick rather than guessing where my breaking point is. I'm a tough cookie, I can bare up under unbelievable stress. now be a doctor would you.
Tazzy

Migrainista said...

Great post! I wish my doc would really address all my symptoms. I can only ever get one addressed per visit and it is always the same 1 or 2 symptoms. Some she just glazes over. Why can't I communicate that to her?

Pink Doberman said...

I like your post also. Here is my take on this subject! First let me state that I agree with you!

I come from a business/sales background. In my former life, I was taught to network, to follow up and to follow through. If I didn't know the answer I would admit it, and then begin to research the options to best serve my client.

I say this because part of being a professional is following through. The medical community is a group of professionals, however I am not sure if follow through and communication skills are addressed in school or in their post school studies.

Finding other competent professionals who work well in a group and compliment each other with different skills and practices is something that I would think would behoove the businesses of these practitioners. It would help them create better reputations and alliances therefore having more resources at their fingertips to solve problems.

Communication between all parties is key, and if communication is not happening alliances need to be reevaluated and new connections formed.

Thinking out of the box and with the patient at the heart of the matter is something that I have found lacking in many offices. I drop those medical professionals and search for others. Lucky me I live between two cities and can choose from a variety of professionals. But I really feel for those who don't.

I am becoming my own advocate and I am working to educate others on how they can best help me. I know this world is not perfect. In fact I find it frustrating. I have my faults too! =D

My two cents.

Julia said...

WONDERFUL! I recently found myself quarterbacking my doctors and suggesting tests and information that I'd like to have before seriously considering the recommendation of going to a regional clinic. (I was able to get much better before incurring the time, energy, and financial costs of that suggestion.)

What a dream--to have doctors communicating with each other, working out backup plans with me, thinking creatively about how to make me feel better, and staying up-to-date on the latest treatments.

Now that you've articulated the dream, I can start making it real with my doctors.

I appreciated Dr. Rob's article, too. It helps a lot to understand where my docs are coming from and to be skillful in collaborating with them.

I've long seen myself as the expert on me and my doctors as consultants with specialized knowledge about illness. And now I can make that relationship even better!

Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Selena! Thank you for contributing to the world every day. You matter and make my life better.

In gratitude,
Juliana Joie