Copyrightę December 1999 Morris Alex , M.D.

Why is this site necessary?

Studies over the years have demonstrated that patients want more information about health care, in particular, as related to them or their loved ones. Often, patients who come to the physicians' office are already in a passive state of mind. They do not take part in making the medical diagnosis and usually do not enter into the decision-making process as to diagnostic testing, a treatment plan and alternatives. Evidence continues to grow that patients who are not involved in medical care and who are uninformed do not follow the treatment plan well and, in general, do not do as well.

Some physicians believe that they are the ones to make all decisions and assume that either the patient or the family does not need to know anything more than what he/she tells them. This type of physician does not take into consideration that the patient may have different goals or issues. There are other physicians who attempt to convey the diagnosis, treatment plan and need for additional tests, but the patient may not hear what is said or know what additional questions to ask. This holds true even if the physician asks whether there are any questions.

We are attempting to make the patient and the family wise users of the medical system. To do this it is necessary for you to:

Join with your physician by giving all the information requested without holding back.

Make all decisions jointly and learn to ask questions.

The physicians will be listing the 10-15 most common diagnoses in their specialty area and the questions that should be asked. The patient still has responsibility to ask questions in the following important areas:

  1. What tests are needed?
  2. When?
  3. Costs?
  4. Can treatment be tried before there are any tests?
  5. Are there special preparations for the test?
  6. How reliable is the test? How will it influence the treatment plan?
  7. What is the medication being ordered? Cost?
  8. Is a generic available?
  9. Are there any risks or side effects?
  10. Will it interfere with other medications or non-prescriptive drugs?
  11. If surgery is necessary, where should it be performed?
  12. By whom?
  13. Are there alternative techniques?
  14. What are the risks of surgery and/or anesthesia?
  15. How long will recovery take?
  16. Is a second opinion required for treatment or surgery?

Before meeting with the physician, be prepared to ask general questions that are your greatest concern. Be sure that you completely understand what the physician is saying to you. If you don't understand, ask the physician to repeat or restate the answer so that you understand. Patients need to understand that physicians are under a time constraint in today's health care environment. Before seeing the physician consider how you feel, what bothers you and what you want. Bring in a list of questions and bring a list of all your medications. Make sure your questions give you an understanding of your condition and the risk and benefits of tests and treatments. Discuss all options which may require consultations. Make certain you understand all the doctor's answers.

Don't be embarrassed to ask for something to be restated. Often, doctors forget and talk technical terms which the lay person may not understand. Finally, try to bring a relative or friend with you to act as a separate set of ears.

Morris Alex M.D.                                                                                                            

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