Eileen Z. Fuentes | How to Become an Empowered Patient
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04 May How to Become an Empowered Patient

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Going to the doctor’s office may be nerve-wracking. Furthermore, it seems like you wait endlessly to see your practitioner but once in the room with him/her, the appointment is over in a flash. Here is how to make the most of your appointments.

1. Be honest! This is not the place to keep secrets

2. Take advantage of your resources

  • Bring a trusted friend or relative with whom you are willing to disclose ALL your personal information. If you can’t get someone to come the appointment with you, record the conversation on your Smartphone but be sure to disclose this in advance.
  • When dealing with a chronic illness (like cancer), ask about a Patient Navigator.
  • If you don’t speak or understand English clearly, ask for a translator at the same time you make the appointment.

3. Prepare for the appointment

  • Have questions/concerns/symptoms written in advance. Review them in the waiting room (remember they don’t call them waiting rooms for nothing… you’ll likely have plenty of time!).
  • Notify your healthcare provider about any significant lifestyle changes (new exercise regimen, relocation, loss of a loved one, etc…). These changes may affect the treatment prescribed.
  • List all medications including vitamins and supplements. Use the H.E.R.B.A.L. guide to do your own research… and remember not all things that are “natural” and “herbal” are safe!

4. Ask Questions

  • Don’t be intimidated. Be respectful but keep in mind YOU are in charge.
  • If the doctor doesn’t have time to discuss all your health concerns, talk to the Nurse or Physician’s Assistant (but not the secretary or front desk staff).
  • If you had a test, ask when the results will be available & then YOU initiate the call on the specified due date.

5. Be proactive about your own health and healing!

  • Trust your instincts! If you do not feel comfortable with your doctor or his/her staff, then you should find another practitioner.
  • Practice calming exercises while you wait like meditation, visualization, affirmations & breathing.
  • Check out your doctors. If they don’t look healthy, it is likely they won’t recommend positive lifestyle changes to you.
  • Act and eat like your grandparents/great-grandparents. They were active without a gym and prepared their own (unprocessed) meals from scratch. Basically, they knew what they were doing!

Not sure what the role of the doctor is? Then read the Hippocratic Oath (or the vow that Physicians make to practice medicine ethically). Surprisingly, it’s shorter than this entire post.

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Eileen Z. Fuentes

After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2008, Eileen became her own Self-Healthcare Activist. She is an Integrative Cancer Coach and works full-time helping patients do more than just survive at Columbia University’s Cancer Center in New York City.

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