Part of the Assurance Series - posts on understanding, interpreting and making sense of your diagnosis and plan of treatment
In golf when a good shot lands on the fairway it's in plain sight in easy-to-play short grass. A straight forward shot will usually advance your game and position you for a par shot on the green. When a poor shot lands to the side of the fairway in unkempt grass, the golfer wastes time trying to find the lost ball. He's literally "in the weeds”.
The same can apply to health care. When a patient’s treatment plan results in little improvement, a post-op recovery that doesn’t go as planned or an internet search mired down with confusing information that makes little sense, your’e literally left “in the weeds”. You want to talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns to “get back on the fairway” but often times there’s a disconnect and you find yourself frustrated, questioning the proposed treatment plan not feeling better, not understanding why or what to do to move ahead. It’s easy to get lost in healthcare information whether on-line or in-person. I’ll be talking about how to evaluate on-line information about health care in another post. In this one I want to give some direction on how you can evaluate a medical opinion and/or advice and take away a practical, actionable plan for your recovery?
First of all you need to start smart and choose a provider that you feel comfortable and confident with. This may take some doing because today more than ever a medical degree doesn’t necessarily translate into quality care. Nor does a slick website, billboard marketing or media campaigns that rely on contributions. A positive patient experience develops and depends on a series of encounters that build a foundation of confidence based on an accurate and considered diagnosis, discussion of pertinent treatment options, opportunities to discuss conservative care and risks and benefits of treatment. All centered around patient-provider rapport, a relationship characterized by mutual understanding, making communication possible and easy so you can evaluate your provider’s opinion with a high degree of confidence and feel you can move forward with healing.
You may not always agree with your doctor or healthcare provider's professional opinion but you must have an intellectual understanding of your problem so that you can make an informed design about your care. An emotional commitment will then follow and that is of equal importance in feeling better. Both mental and physical components need to be in line for healing to occur.
Don't fall into the trap of self-diagnosis. You can read and research even the best of vetted on-line symptom checkers but they are not meant to be a substitute for hands on care. Do accurately evaluating your symptoms in preparation for your visit to the doctor but an accurate diagnosis depends on a person who's trained to sort through a mass of information and knows all of the pertinent facts.
Be honest with your physician and open to his/her opinion. Carefully evaluate their recommendations and unless it is an emergency situation the time needed to decide if this is the right health care practitioner for you. If a provider has a willingness to discuss your questions and concerns it becomes more of a shot on to the fairway than looking for a lost ball in the weeds.