Be Your Own Best Advocate: How Being Proactive in Your Own Care Can Improve Your Medical Outcome

Patient responsibility is a common phrase bantered around in medical negligence cases. It refers to the patient’s obligation to accurately represent their symptoms and complaints. The main reason this is an issue hinges on the fact that a large part of what a treating physician relies on, at least in the initial contact with a patient, is the patient’s subjective telling of his or her complaints.

For example, if a patient presents with a persistent cough but isn’t sure for how long this makes a large difference in the initial work-up by the physician. A cough is not a red flag for a serious, life-threatening disease and oftentimes is indicative of nothing more than a common cold. However, when combined with other factors, such as a history of smoking, recent unexplained weight loss, or bloody phlegm, it can be a clue to a more serious problem.

Gone are the days when our local family doctor took care of us from childhood through adulthood and knew all our family’s medical history. Nowadays a yearly check-up with your primary physician is comprised of a quick interview with a nurse and then an even quicker visit with the doctor. Most physicians don’t spend a lot of time prodding and considering each individual question. They expect that you will tell them concisely what is wrong, give them all the relevant information, and then they will diagnose and treat you. But it really isn’t that straightforward. In order to ensure that you get the most out of any physician encounter, and are receiving proper treatment, you need to be your own advocate.

How To Be A Good Advocate

Probably most important is to be prepared. Even at an annual check-up the average person has a few issues that they want to address with their physician. Yet by the time you sit in the waiting room and then sit in the exam room it’s common to want to just get in and out. But if you write down a list of questions to bring to your physician you are much more likely to ask them and to get them answered.

Also, when asking questions it is important to make sure you bring up important issues at the start of the visit. If you wait until you’re walking out the door to ask your doctor about sharp chest pains you’ve been having at that point you might be told to make a follow up visit or to go to the emergency room.

Don’t be afraid to push your concerns. Again, a physician can only treat symptoms that he or she is aware of. If you don’t make them aware of medical problems you’ve been having then chances are it won’t get treated. Your doctor is there to help you, but can only do so if they have all the information.

However, sometimes you find that you are a good self advocate, that you are aware of your body and health and advise your physician to any changes in your status, but that your physician does not respond or engage in a way you would like. If you don’t feel your physician is appropriately treating your symptoms you need to take your care back into your own hands. Either find someone who can treat you, whether a specialist, another doctor, or even an emergency physician, and seek care elsewhere. You have no obligation to continue putting your trust in a physician that you feel is providing substandard care. Your main concern is with getting better and making sure that your physician is equipped to help you reach that goal.

Kreisman Law Offices: practicing medical malpractice in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois and its surrounding area for more than thirty years.

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