In order to optimise the time with your medical team and to engage in a good collaboration with them, it is important to prepare the appointment. Let’s see how an e-Patient plans it.
Before the appointment:
- Research on the topic that worries you to understand as much as possible about your health condition. When using Google or another search engine make sure to use keywords such as “breast cancer” (or the name of your disease) and the name of the country where you get treated: breast cancer + Switzerland, for example. It is interesting to search on Twitter using the hashtags (keywords) of your condition (#breastcancer, #diabetes, #hypertension, etc.). On this social network, you will find information shared by the community of patients and healthcare professionals. It is important to be critical of the information you find: bear in mind Who publishes the information, When it was published it, and take into account that the information on the first page of the search is not necessarily the best one. It might be useful to join a patient community to share your experiences and learn from others.
- Prepare your questions and write them down. Feel free to ask anything that is important to you.
- Reflect on which are your needs, priorities, and pains. Remember that the healthcare professional knows about the science of your disease but doesn’t know how is to live with it. Every patient is different and unique. You should explain well how you feel so your doctor can personalise the care.
Don’t forget about the emotional aspect of your condition. Communicate your feelings to your doctor and bring someone close to you to the visit if it makes you feel better.
During the appointment:
- Remember you are not the only patient that day. Be concise and clear.
- No questions are stupid. Ask your doctor what you don’t understand, don’t feel embarrassed. If you feel you can’t talk freely with your healthcare professional, consider looking for a new one.
- Explain where you feel the pain, where it is located, its intensity, when it appears. All this information should be written down.
- Tell your doctor if you are using a mobile app to monitor your disease and show him/her the data you have collected.
- At the end of the appointment make sure you have answers to all your questions. If you need more information, ask for a new appointment.
After the appointment:
- Take time to digest the information your doctor has given you. If new questions arise, go online and ask your peers to give you advice while you wait for the next visit.
- Make sure you update the rest of your medical team -including your pharmacists, about any new treatments or news discussed with your doctor.
- Think whether incorporating sport, yoga or complementary therapies into your routine might be beneficial for you.
It might look like a lot of information and a long list of things to do but when these steps become routine you will realise that you are getting a better care. As a patient, you will be more autonomous and proactive and you will feel more in control.
*Christine Bienvenu (@SuissePatiente), Board Member at Patient Empowerment Foundation and healthcare social media specialist.
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