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Vail Daily column: Understanding your ailment and doctor

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, the doctor-patient relationship was quite different. Back then, doctors made house calls, knew their patients’ name by heart and knew the whole family personally. Often, this one “family doctor” took care of the entire family. The doctor often knew each of his patient’s ailment(s) intimately, knew what medications they took, and knew what medication worked well and which did not.

With the development of medical insurance, malpractice insurance, PPOs, HMOs, medical centers, outpatient surgery centers and digital record keeping, the home visiting doctor has been pushed aside to “modernized medicine.”

Many doctors have become tired of seeing 30-plus patients a day and the modern medical practice machine that demands quantity over quality. These doctors are now coined “concierge doctors.” A “concierge doctor” is one that uses a direct pay model versus that of insurance pay. With the circumvention of health insurers, patients often pay a monthly or annual fee to the doctor for the ability to have an appointment that is not limited to seven to 15 minutes offered in most medical practices.

Rather, the patient receives round-the-clock access and an appointment that lasts for the amount of time it takes the doctor to understand the ailment and figure out a course of action.

Until the time comes that “concierge doctors” become more prevalent, we must find a way to get the best and most robust care. The patient must become more proactive. We must partner with our medical providers to develop and implement a proactive team approach that betters our wellness and lives in general. We must become better and more proficient at advocating for our health and well-being.

First and foremost, we must start taking charge of our own well-being by making better choices about the foods we eat and the exercise we do.

Here are some tips to assist when visiting and communicating with your medical provider:

• Write down your questions and concerns ahead of time.

• Keep a journal of important things you want to talk with your doctor about.

• Know your learning style. How is it that you best understand new information? Some people learn best by hearing information, others learn best by having things written down, and some need it shown to them.

• Understand your ailment.

• Ask questions (and ask them until you really understand the answers!). Request that the answers be given to you in a way that you find helpful. Telling a doctor to “dumb it down” for you does not make you a simpleton. It’s important to be able to tell your health care provider what works best for you so that you can understand the information they’re giving you.

• Know your medication. Really, know your medication. What does it look like? What does it do? What, if any, are the side effects? Know how much to take and when.

• Take your medication as directed. If you stop taking a medication because you don’t think it works or because you don’t like the way it makes you feel, tell your doctor.

• Make a list of all your medications and bring it to each and every medical appointment. As we see numerous doctors, each specializing in a specific area, too often our medications change. Doctor “A” may have no idea that doctor “B” made a change. Keeping doctors up to date with our medications is paramount.

If you get home and still don’t understand something the doctor said, call the medical office back and see if the doctor or nurse can explain the information further.

When people take an active role in their care, research shows they fare better — in satisfaction and in how well treatments work. A passive patient is less likely to get well.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.


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