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St James AME Church, Elgin, Illinois St James AME Church, Elgin, Illinois


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Posted on Sat, Apr 8, 2006

The Most Important Questions To Ask Your Doctor
Each of us (at least those of us who truly want to live the best life possible) must become more of an active participant and active questioner in our own health care. This does not mean that we, as patients, should start �playing doctor�. Instead, it speaks more about the need for us all to be more involved and less reactive to the issues that arise after the fact. Usually by the time such issues arise, we are fighting an uphill battle. We have sat back very complacent and either ignored or endured the pain, discomfort, or otherwise blatant signs and symptoms of the onset of health problems.
Now in all fairness, I must acknowledge that, in the vast majority of us, this type of behavior is a result of a systematic process where we were all �taught� that the doctor knows best. Many of our parents, their parents were introduced to doctors and the medical system in a very intimidating manner. This is the pattern that has been passed down through the generations.
We were not to question either the diagnosis nor the treatment plan and prescription. In my opinion this was very dangerous and certainly not in the best interest of our health and well being. What it did was to promote a general sentiment and attitude that allowed us to not only feel that it was okay to ignore the warning signals that our bodies send us, but to also expect someone else  (the doctor) to assume the responsibility for our health.
With a culture that bombards us with commercials, ads, and promotions, we stood little chance of not succumbing to this campaign. Thus, we end up in a society where we now find ourselves vulnerable to the mercies of the health system as it evolves into whatever the economics dictate it to become.
Where does this all leave us?
Another aspect of �personal empowerment� in health care is how we communicate and interact with our doctors and health care providers.
The best assistance I can offer in this area is a list of some of the most important questions you can keep in mind to ask your doctor at the appropriate times.
Is there anything I can do to make your job easier?
This is a �no-brainer�, because the answer is crystal clear. The answer involves the patient being open and honest in providing accurate information to enable accurate diagnosis, as well as to support the doctors� ability to follow-up and tract the progress of the treatment plan.
Regardless of what my insurance company will or won�t pay for, will you please inform me of all treatment options, which could help my condition?
This is extremely important because it allows you the patient to have the right and the ability to decide if, there is an option for treatment that you can find the money to pay for out-of-pocket if you chose.
How are the tests you are ordering going to help you in making your final diagnosis, and what are the risks (if any) of these tests?
Here we have the information to not only understand what�s going on as you take what could be a battery of tests, but also to play an active role in the diagnostic process without �playing doctor.�
What is my prognosis? How will I be doing in a month, year, etc.?
This is your way of putting the treatment plan that the doctor prescribes in perspective of what you can realistically expect.  It gives a greater degree of accountability to both you and the doctor in chart progress and recovery. It also serves as a good barometer for the effectiveness of the treatment. Now keep in mind that no doctor can make a �guarantee� about a cure from treatment. However, we need to have some idea of what to expect and when, so that we can make educated and informed decisions in the future.
What can I do to prevent complications from the treatment or from the condition itself?
Here�s where you and your doctor can work together in structuring the lifestyle and dietary considerations that can make the difference in how well you do in the overall course of treatment. This is where you can discuss any special measures you may be considering or already involved in such as herbs, vitamins, natural supplements, and any other modalities of natural medicine.
What are the implications of me taking the suggested treatment versus not taking any treatment?
This is a very sensitive area. Here you are attempting to find out the pros and cons of the drug or treatment your doctor is recommending. This is one of the points at which you can exercise your patient rights and decide if the side effects or reaction to the treatment would either be intolerable or outweigh any potential benefits. For me, the consideration would center on the issue of the quality of life.
We are at a crossroad and have some pretty tough decisions to make in terms of how we will chose to live (and for the most part die). Never before in the history of this planet have we had such a vast amount of information available to us with which to make life-or-death decisions.
There are three types of people in this world:
Those who make things happen.
Those who things happen to.
Those who wonder what happened?
Which one are you?
Info submitted by: W.E. Scott MD, PhD, MPH

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