The Washington Post published a simple and helpful article last week on how to be a good patient.
The article encourages patients to be organized, have readily available medication lists, doctor’s names etc. And while I agree with the article, and agree that being a good patient can help doctors do a better job, I am reminded of an obstacle to this world where patients serve as their own advocates… and that obstacle is human nature.
For some people, focusing on one’s health or one’s health conditions feels yucky. They don’t like to do it. I have a loved one with an advanced degree, who can name the last four joint chiefs of staff and she recently told a doctor she had never had pneumonia before, forgetting she had been hospitalized with pneumonia just 10 months prior. She can tell you her medications, and doctors, but has no idea why a test has been scheduled, what its for or what condition it addresses. She trusts the doctors and isn’t organized when it comes to new health information.
Thankfully, we exist in a world of electronic medical records where if a patient visits the same providers, we hope and expect the full story to be available in the records regardless of whether the patient can remember or account for his or her whole medical history.
But sadly, we can’t rely on the records because that would mean all providers would have to make time to review all the records, and we know that isn’t feasible.
Furthermore, we live in a world where patients will be blamed for not knowing all the details.
- “Well you didn’t tell me about that drug allergy, so I gave it to you…”
- “Well, I didn’t know you had a CT last year so I ordered a new one.”
While it is always good to be a good patient, and will undoubtedly help the providers help you the sad truth is if you can’t be an organized patient, you may be at risk. You need to be an advocate yourself or enlist the help of someone else who can be a good patient representative for you!