When I first became ill with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, I literally thought I was going crazy. I felt this way not just because of the chronic pain, the debilitating migraine headaches, or the insurmountable fatigue. At times, the pain could be persistent and felt as if it would never end; but this nagging pain was not what made me crazy, it was because my doctors weren’t listening to me. I would come early (like I was told to by the office staff), spend thirty minutes in the waiting room, 15 minutes alone in the exam room and then when my doctor finally arrived… he was in and out like a blur. Doctor after doctor, it was all the same, they stated maybe you have the flu… give it time, it will pass…. I can write you a prescription for… Then, just like that, the nurse would shuttle me to directly to billing. I was asked more questions about potential changes in my insurance from the previous visit that I was asked about my symptoms. And, I spent more time waiting to talk to my doctors than I ever did actually talking to one. I don’t want to sound down on doctors, but this really was my experience. And I’m not alone.
An international study of patient satisfaction found that two-thirds of patients across the globe were dissatisfied and felt disrespected by their physicians. Disrespect. Wow. A pretty severe attitude towards an experience where one is in discomfort and seeking expertise, solutions, and relief. A situation where you are paying for a service. Or your insurance company is, which is part of the problem because insurance companies are in the business of making profits, but that’s a whole other topic for another time.
According to the study one fourth of patients worldwide complain that physicians don’t answer questions, don’t involve them in treatment decisions and use medical terms with no explanation. A quarter of patients also feel doctors did not spend enough time in patient care. Another point of the study showcased, one-third of patients felt disrespected by the doctors lack of punctuality and nearly half of patients were dismayed by the lack of explanation of treatment options and the potential side effects of treatment.
There are a lot of wonderful, caring doctors out there. But the system is broken, and you either need to go outside of the system to get good care or you have to know how to navigate the broken one. You have to know who’s boss… You are.
Your doctor is a service provider, much like your accountant or hairdresser. You need to treat your health likes it’s your business, because if you don’t, who will?
These are the top 7 traits of being the manager of your own health or being a #PatientBoss
1) DO THE RESEARCH
In the age of information, you no longer need to look to your doctor as an omnipotent god. They are are experts in their field, depending on what kind of education they received and what kind of continuing education they seek out, but ultimately you will bear the consequences of your treatment decisions, so learn everything you can. Prepare ahead of time and bring a list of questions with you, so that you do not leave without answers. That said, do not try to self-diagnose. Instead…
2) GET A SECOND OPINION
All good bosses vet. A competent doctor will not take this personally, and if your does, then it’s time to move on. Getting more than one opinion will allow you to think more clearly and weigh all your options. You should go with your gut instinct and choose the treatment plan that feels “right” and makes sense to you. Health is a mind/body continuum and you need to understand your options on more than one level. If your doctor is a conventional allopathic doctor, consider getting an opinion from a naturopathic doctor so you know what less invasive and natural options are available to you.
3) KNOW YOUR PRODUCT
You are the boss of the business of YOU. You can’t manage a business you don’t understand. If you owned a factory, you would need to know as much as possible about the machinery, the raw materials, the process from concept to final product, so make it a point to learn and understand how your body functions. I knew a fair amount of nutrition, anatomy and physiology when I was sick, and my probing into the cause of my condition annoyed some of my doctors, but in the end, it enabled me to listen to my body, ask questions and seek better care.
4) EXECUTIVE DECISION
This is where you exercise your position as boss. If you are unhappy with your care at any time, speak up. Don’ worry about hurting your doctor’s feelings. Just be respectful and honest. This is about you and your life and your wellbeing. If you are confused, clarify until you fully understand. Let your doctor know that you intend to be proactive. Chances are, he or she will be glad that you are. Regardless you need to remember that you are the boss. And sometimes, bosses need to fire their employees. If you find yourself in this situation, its is advised to find a new doctor before letting your current one go, that way you stay in control.
The success of a company comes down to the management. You are responsible for taking care of your health, and finding the best possible care when you need it. I wouldn’t want it any other way, would you?
Razi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (ndnr.com) and NaturalPath (thenatpath.com), has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.