Many patients whom I see often don’t know what medications they are taking. When asked, they will say it is “the little white pill”. Additionally, some do not know why they are on a certain medication or fully understand their medical diagnoses. As a doctor, I can tell you what is the best medication to take but if you haven’t bought into taking it, you probably are not going to take it as it is supposed to be taken. In order for me to help you achieve your best health, we need to be team players and work together for your best interests, keeping in mind, what you want.

How Can Patients Advocate For ThemSelves?

1. Know what medications you are taking AND why. I ask patients to bring their prescription bottles to their doctor’s visits. I have found many times patients are taking a generic medication and the brand name of the same medication. Thus, they were unaware that they were taking double the recommended dose.

2. Know when you need refills. Don’t wait until there is 1 pill left. I cannot call a prescription when the pharmacy is closed. Often, I am busy seeing other patients and can’t do it right away. I do send all refills the same day requested, but patients get nervous thinking they will run out. When you are down to your last week of pills, that is the time to call for the refill.

3. Make a list of questions when you come for your office visits. Many patients forget some of their questions and call back later. This may result in phone tag. If you have them written in front of you, you can get all your concerns answered while in front of the doctor.

4. If you have had surgeries, please know what was done exactly. I have seen patients with belly pain and surgical scars who don’t know what was done to them. It makes a big difference if they had their appendix or gallbladder already removed. If you have a complicated medical history, keep a written list of everything so the doctor is sure to know you’re complete medical information. While we are all striving for interoperability of EHR’s, we are not there yet. Also, computer systems go down.

5. Understand informed consent. You know all those forms the doctors or hospital ask you to sign before you have a procedure? One of these forms explains the risks and benefits of that procedure. Make sure you understand all of them so there are no surprised afterwards. If you don’t understand, ASK!

6. Don’t lie! If you are not taking your medications or not watching what you are eating, we are not going to judge you for this. But, it will help us decide what course of medical treatment may be best to follow. And a secret: most doctors can tell when you’re lying anyway.

In order to receive the best from available healthcare, you truly need to advocate for yourselves. With the plethora of medications available, it is no longer possible to say you take the little white pill and expect the healthcare community to readily know what it is. As we await technology to be upgraded to make medical data easily available and systems interoperable, you still need to take charge of your own health. An EHR is not going to make you feel the importance of why you need to take the medications you should be taking: only you can do this. And this can be accomplished only when you stand up and become a partner with your doctor to develop the best treatment plan individualized for you.

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