Health Care Self-Defense

4 Min Read

To get the best medical care, you need to be informed and assertive. As a doctor, I’m in the unique position of hearing about and seeing the errors other doctors make most often during exams.

Here are some of the big mistakes doctors make and what you can do to prevent them

Mistake: Prescribing drugs but not adequately explaining how to take them

If medicine isn’t taken properly, it may not work or it may have unexpected effects.

Helpful: After your doctor writes out a prescription, ask how much of the drug to take how often if you should take it on an empty stomach, what to do if you miss a dose and what to do if you develop side effects. Then have the doctor write out a schedule for the drug so you’ll know exactly when to take it each day and for how long.

Mistake: Recommending treatment without involving you in the thinking process or diagnosis

Urge your doctor to speak openly about what he/she thinks about your condition and the pros and cons of each treatment available. Be sure to take notes.

Important: When your condition requires elective surgery or can lead to more serious complications insist that you want time to think about the recommended treatment. This will give you time to research your ailment, seek a second or third opinion and consider alternatives.

Mistake: Coming to conclusions without considering the psychological factors in your life

The mind can have a profound effect on your immune system, yet many doctors overlook its impact.

Helpful:  If there are important changes going on in your life that your doctor should know about, such as marital problems or job issues, be sure to mention them even if your doctor forgets to ask.

Mistake: Prescribing the “latest” drug

Drug companies spend millions to influence the prescribing habits of doctors. Typically they try to get doctors to recommend brand new drugs with high price tags and profit margins. What you want, however, is the best drug for your condition.

Helpful: Ask your doctor if there are any drugs that have been on the market longer than the one he is prescribing and ask whether it would be acceptable to take those drugs instead. In general, older drugs have longer track records of safety and are usually cheaper.

Mistake: Giving you free samples of drugs that he normally would not prescribe

Most patients love getting free samples. But drug companies give most of these samples for the newer drugs that they’re trying to promote. These are often drugs with which doctors aren’t too familiar yet.

Helpful: Before accepting a sample, ask your doctor how good the new drug is and whether there is another drug that is established or cheaper in prescription form.

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