You can’t be your own doctor While it is important for you to be informed about your concerns. DO NOT attempt to treat your symptoms, illnesses, or ailments yourself. It can be very tempting in our current connected culture to take the advice of online “MDs” to cure your own cough with “life-hack” (involving two humidifiers, coconut oil, and a tennis ball). But always remember, if your doctor could have learned how to treat on their computer, they wouldn’t have spent all that time in school. Always seek a doctor’s opinion before taking any action to self-treat an issue
Beware of becoming a Google doctor Various diagnosis websites have come through the cracks in the past years, and they are as dangerous to use as they are helpful. While it is important to do your own research, remember to take all of the information with a grain-of-salt and a questioning attitude. Not meaning that what your are finding is objectively wrong, but it always important to question your research. Diagnosing yourself can be dangerous. If you are already decided on what is wrong, it will be hard to establish trust with a doctor who disagrees with your research. Let your doctor use their subjective view to determine the issue, rather than turning to a vague mass-diagnosis.
Your friends can’t be your doctor While the availability of a confidant is invaluable when we are in times of worry, those people cannot take the place of a doctor. Remember that symptoms are not always direct indicators of illness. Just because your friend had the same set of symptoms you are experiencing, it doesn’t mean that the cause is the same. This discovery is best left to your doctor. However, don’t let this scare you away from talking with your friends about your concerns. They can help you feel comfortable about opening up to your doctor about your concerns or even be able to refer you to a doctor that has helped them in the past.
Doctors can’t be their own Doctor Even Doctors need to seek help when dealing with health issues. In the same way that self-diagnosis can cloud your judgement on what your treatment should be, doctors can be sometimes too close to the situation to see the solution clearly.
You need a doctor you can trust When choosing a doctor, ask these questions during your appointment: “Is the doctor listening to me?” “Is the doctor asking me questions?” A doctor that seems distant or distracted isn’t going to be a good fit. A disinterested doctor isn’t going to take the time to understand your unique issues and that can lead to misdiagnosis or ineffective (not to mention expensive) treatments. 90% of the diagnosis comes from the consultation, so DO NOT let this slide. This can be the most important step in establishing a good relationship with your doctor, and, ultimately, improving your health.
Write down your questions and concerns When you get in front of the doctor, especially a new one, it’s very easy to let things slip through the cracks. Maybe you just forgot. Maybe, in the moment, it was something you were no longer comfortable discussing. Either way, that piece of information is now being skipped, and could be vital to your diagnosis. A detailed list of symptoms, history of injuries and illnesses, and health goals will make sure this doesn’t happen. Bring a copy for your doctor too, it’ll make things go smoothly.
Bring your research This may seem contradictory with what I said earlier, but I didn’t tell you not to research at all. Just remember to question your research, and there is no one better to help you with that than your doctor. Not only can this help your doctor get a window into your concerns, it also shows your doctor that you are committed to your health. It will also establish you as an informed patient. Your doctor is less likely to give you a cookie-cutter response if they know you have hit the books on the subject. However, it is important to not overdo it! Remember when I said you can’t be your own doctor? Good.
Bring an Advocate If you’re memory isn’t what it used to be, you need a little help keeping honest, or you are frightened of a negative diagnosis or uncomfortable treatment, bring a friend. Friends can be a source of comfort, information, and support when you need it and this is another way to make sure that nothing is forgotten during your consult.
If you are not comfortable with what you are being told, seek a second opinion. You’ve asked the doctor your questions, but you aren’t satisfied with the answers. That’s OK. Doctors aren’t infallible and not every doctor is going to be a right fit for you. Don’t feel defeated and don’t feel backed into a corner with a doctor. You can and should always seek a second opinion when you feel one is necessary.
Make sure you are getting a Rockstar Exam… but that’s a post for another day. See part 2 soon!