The Henderson Group | Medical Empowerment
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Medical Empowerment

Medical Empowerment

By David Henderson, CFP

How do you become an empowered health care consumer? A recent blog post on the Forbes magazine website, authored by financial planner/doctor/former Capstone Study Group colleague Carolyn McClanahan, suggests that the relationship between doctors and patients is entering a third phase of its evolution. I have struggled lately to find a primary care physician with whom I felt professionally comfortable. Carolyn’s article resonated with me.

Phase one of the doctor-patient evolution was paternalistic. The doctor told the patient what to do and the patient was expected to do it. Up until the last couple of decades this was the model taught in medical schools.

With the rise of the Internet, the Phase Two relationship became more informational. The doctor provides us with a number of choices, and we choose one of them. The problem with an informational relationship is that most of us aren’t really equipped to relate the choices to our health goals, which can result in inappropriate care.

Phase Three, the new paradigm, is a collaborative approach. The health care provider takes the time to understand our goals, needs and resources, and then helps us decide the care that is most appropriate for our situation.

It takes two to make this work, which means that all of us will need to more actively participate in doctors’ visits. How? McClanahan recommends that we write out, in advance, current symptoms, current medication and some information about diet. Write down the questions you would like the doctor to answer during the visit. If you have complicated issues, ask for a longer appointment.

During the visit, make certain the doctor answers your questions in laymen’s terms rather than medical jargon. If testing is ordered, ask what the doctor wants to learn from the test, and how the results might change the approach to treatment. If you don’t get a clear response, ask if the test is really necessary.

Before the visit is over, make sure you know what’s going to happen next, and why. If the doctor seems hurried or impatient with your questions, or is not able to tell you how you can improve your health circumstances on your own, then ask for a referral to the appropriate nutritionist, physical therapist or a more patient medical practitioner. If you’re dissatisfied, make sure the doctor and the health care organization understands why. We won’t get collaborative health care unless we force these organizations to evolve to the next level of doctor-patient relationship.