Be your own advocate at the doctor

AB Boyd | Cartoonist

One in every 20 American adults are misdiagnosed with illnesses every year. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that patients are their own advocate at the doctor’s office.

When it comes to illness, especially chronic illness, it can be hard to adequately communicate symptoms to your doctor. Taking steps to prepare before appointments means doctors can better understand what their patients have been feeling and can find a proper diagnosis faster.

There are multiple ways to prepare for doctor’s appointments, but one of the most effective ways to do this is to write down a log of symptoms, diet and questions for the doctor as soon as illness sets in. Writing down everything that happens helps doctors to connect symptoms and figure out what is causing them. Additionally, remembering every symptom can be hard. Keeping a log ensures that nothing is forgotten and therefore nothing is missed when it comes to diagnosis.

It’s also important to keep in mind that not every doctor is the right fit for every patient. For instance, women are more likely to be treated with sedatives as opposed to pain relievers even though women are 70% of those who suffer from chronic pain. In fact, a 2000 study showed that women are much more likely to be misdiagnosed than men during a heart attack. Though some insurance plans may not allow it, patients should feel free to switch doctors if they feel as though their pain is not being taken seriously.

Lastly, it is important to remember that doctors cannot physically feel the pain and/or symptoms their patients are going through. Therefore, it is important that when something feels off, patients persist until the doctors are able to find an effective treatment.

Healthcare professionals hold one of the most important jobs in our society, but they can’t do their job effectively if they don’t have as much information about their patients as possible. Taking these steps ensures doctors are able to provide adequate care for their patients, and it helps to make sure they know which medical tests to order and medications to prescribe. It also helps to make sure long-term illnesses don’t go undiagnosed for long amounts of time, as misdiagnoses and untreated illnesses can cause more severe long-term effects.

The doctor-patient relationship is a partnership, and patients who advocate for themselves makes that partnership stronger.