If you’re diagnosed with a serious illness, don’t assume that you’ll be shepherded through the system, expertly handed off from doctor to lab to clinic to doctor in a well choreographed dance. It doesn’t usually happen that way.
As medicine evolved into greater specialization, tests and treatments have moved out from under the hospital umbrella, leaving many patients to navigate their own way. Although coordination is attempted, ultimately it is up to the patient to ensure that the right doctors are copied, that the right tests are done, that you are getting the right treatment.
A few basics:
Know your Patient Bill of Rights. You have the right to your records. You have the right to know and understand what is being done to you. You have the right to question any procedure. You have the right to choose or deny your treatment. You have the right to hire or fire your practitioner.
Get organized and manage your records. List your treatments. Know each drug name, potential side effects and options for management. List any complimentary treatment. List your prescriptions, especially dosage and side effects.
Ask for copies of radiology reports or doctor notes. Results of recent tests or studies may be waiting to be filed at your doctor’s office. Know the date of your last procedures to ensure your doctor is working from current information.
Keep documentation in a portable file that can be taken with you when necessary. If you need emergency care, attending physicians will need all information about medications, treatments, and names and contact information of your doctors.
Complicated medical situations demand that you become your own best advocate. Although every practitioner may be devoted to healing, no one cares more about your outcome than you.
Remember, it is you who will live with the result.