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Talking to your Doctors, Getting What you Need

There has been a lot of discussion about patient/providercommunication, partially driven by the move to electronic health records andthe question of who has access to the contents of that record, and partlydriven by a heightened awareness among patients that they must control theirhealth destiny because basically no one else will. 

Some even contend that patients should have access to theirlab reports. But let’s face it, most patients do not know how to read thesereports, nor do they want to. To resolve this dilemma, and help patients becomemore empowered and engaged, they need   easy tools such as lists of questions to ask, whenthey are in front of their physicians and other healthcare providers, and a notebookto jot down answers. Some even need an advocate with them to help themunderstand and remember the physician’s instructions.

In Chapter one of  mybook, e-Patients Live Longer, TheComplete Guide to Managing Healthcare  UsingTechnology,  www.epatientslivelonger.com, I provide  suggestions for the reader to think aboutregarding what outcome they want from a visit with the doctor; whatcharacteristics make a good patient and key questions to ask during an annualcheckup.

Just last week, the Agency for Healthcare Research andQuality announced that they had a Question Builder Tool on its website www.ahrq.gov/questions that outlinesthe kinds of questions patients should ask when seeing a doctor. QuestionBuilder is a great tool for patients who know where to find it. Unfortunatelynot many people will search it out or take the time to go through all of thelinks and choose the questions that are relevant to their care.

 If providers reallywant to help empower their patients, and make their time with patients moreefficient, they have to suggest these resources to their patient population.

Will this format for communication save time and money. Youbet it will. The patient will experience fewer redundant tests, medicationside-effects will be reduced and fewer errors will occur. Patients will be morecompliant about following treatment plans and more educated about their healthissues. This has long enough been discussed. Now is the time for action.

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