Chronic Illness Articles

July 13, 2009

10 Reasons When it Makes Good Sense to Fire Your Doctor

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by Lisa Copen

We will never find the perfect doctor, as they are all human and none of them are perfect. It comes as no surprise to most of us that they call their profession “the practice of medicine.” One of the leading causes of death and injury in the United States is medical mistakes.

The Institute of Medicine calculates that, due to medical mistakes, anywhere from 44,000 to 98,000 people actually die in hospitals in the U.S. each year. This is more than from motor vehicle accidents or breast cancer.

Regardless of whether you are generally healthy, or live with a chronic illness, you still need a physician you can trust. Though an occasional small mistake may occur, it is especially important that you have a doctor who is eager to be part of your medical team for both short-term and long-term treatment.

Are there some sure signs you shouldn’t listen to your doctor and you should seek a second opinion, or maybe even shop around for a new physician? Definitely!

1. Your doctor does not listen to all of your symptoms or ask questions about them. He is quick to write down his interpretation when you have not fully been able to explain yourself.

2. Your doctor is determined to prescribe medications that have just been approved by the F.D.A., even though you are hesitant about trying something new. He doesn’t explain what the medication will treat, and why it’s important for your condition. He doesn’t explain short or long term side effects or any plan to get you off of it. Promotional items for these medications are visible around the office, from notepads to clocks.

3. Your doctor seems to know a lesser amount of information about your condition that you do. You often feel like your appointments are just times when you show up and inform him of your well-being and what is new about your condition, and he takes notes.

4. Your doctor appears to lack confidence about his ability to care for you effectively, seldom giving you medical advice or directions. Instead, he seems to tell you to do whatever you believe is best or asks, “Well, what do you think we should do in this case?”

5. Your doctor is quick to order tests or procedures that could impact your current health or your chronic illness in a negative way. He forgets that intrusive procedures that may be minor for some people could cause set backs in your illness. The best physician always keeps your whole body and condition in mind, not just the part he specializes in.

6. Your doctor seems to give you that look like he is humoring you. When you describe something you read, or ask a question about a new treatment you have heard about, he looks at you with skepticism and a smile and then writes some notes. It feels condescending.

7. Your doctor isn’t open with you about the medical records he has kept about you. When you request copies of your records, he may be willing to fax them to another physician but seems to try to avoid you getting them into your hands. One reason it’s vital to be aware of what is in your medical records is in case you submit an application for disability aid at some time and social security disability review doctors wish to examine your records.

8. Your doctor is never available when you need him. When you have an emergency he cannot get you in for an appointment immediately. Your prescriptions aren’t refilled on time. He doesn’t call you back when you have an urgent situation and must page him.

9. Your doctor is doubtful that you are having the severity of pain that you describe to him. He is hesitant about prescribing you pain medication, even though your pain level justifies it and you have proven to be a responsible patient with your medications.

10. Your doctor is never open to consulting other medical professionals or faxing his notes over to your other physicians. He thinks he can solve all of your medical needs and feels threatened when you want to consult with another source, specialist, or someone else on your medical team.

A good doctor will listen to you as much as possible, take good notes, explain medications, and make you feel like you are part of your medical team in treating any conditions or symptoms you may have.

We may never find the perfect physician, and we may visit a few doctors who have been referred to us before we find the best fit for our medical needs and a good personality fit. But don’t sacrifice your well-being simply because you are afraid of hurting the feelings of a doctor by leaving him and seeking your care somewhere else.

Read Lisa’s newest book, Why Cant I Make People Understand? Order at WhyCantIMakePeopleUnderstand.com Subscribe to a great weekly ezine HopeNotes and download free 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. And tune in to Lisa’s weekly podcast at Hope Endures Radio at the web site. Lots of support is available.

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June 2, 2009

5 Steps to Use Twitter as a Pain Log Tool

This article is free to reprint on your blog, ezine, web site, etc. Just leave everything “as is” including the resource box at the bottom. Thank you!

If chronic illness or pain is a part of your life, the odds are that at one point you have been requested by a physician to keep a log about your activities and pain levels, especially what led up to your pain being most intense. He may have suggested that you write down specific activities, your diet and exercise behaviors, and even your patterns of sleep.

If you have attempted to take this on and do it thoroughly, you know that it can be an overwhelming feeling to keep track of all of your activities and still maintain a sense of normal life. He can be extremely helpful, however, to you and your medical team, to have a written record of your activities, diet, etc. to help discover what is it is causing you the greatest pain. Was that extreme flare caused by a minor food allergy, the weather conditions, or that you were up all night with friends?

It is somewhat ironic that while we may find it a burdensome task to record what we are eating, who we are with, how much we slept, and how we are feeling, millions of people are doing this daily on Twitter. They write what they ate for lunch, if they have a migraine, and if they are up at 2 a.m. working. . . and they call it fun!

If you have a chronic illness, Twitter can be an amazing tool to use as a pain diary. This social networking tool has been successfully used to help people maintain logs on their diet, exercise, and even the commitment to stop smoking. Why should we not use it to keep accurate records of our chronic illness and pain levels?

Here are 5 steps to put this into place:

[1] Create an account at Twitter just for your chronic pain logs. If you already have a Twitter account, make a new one, and let it remain private. If you look under “settings” you will see the option to make your account private, meaning that you will have to approve any followers before anyone can see your Twitter account. Since this is private medical information, we recommend not approving anyone. If you are already Twittering this can seem a bit strange because you typically want to increase the number of followers.

[2] You are now ready to start writing your posts. You cannot write more than 140 characters, however, this keeps it a simple task and not too overwhelming. Feel free to use it in any way necessary, for example, submitting more than one post to describe a special circumstance. You can send posts from your cell phone, not just from the computer, so set up this option in your account to make the most of it.

[3] If you don’t know where to start, begin by posting about any major events or behaviors that are not part of your typical day, and how your body responded to them. For example, if you awake feeling horrible, ask yourself has the weather change significantly? Twitter the weather. Are you taking the same amount of medication as you typically do? Were you active or solitary yesterday? Post whatever information may be valuable to you and your medical team at any right in your treatment.

[4] Before you go to a doctor’s appointment, log on to your Twitter account and print out the posts if your doctor would like acopy. Highlight any major changes in your patterns of pain.

[5] If you already use twitter for personal or business reasons, consider using a service that will post to more than one account at a time so that you are regular tweets that share where you are and what you are doing can also post to your twitter chronic pain log without any additional effort.

The market for Twitter applications will continue to grow and there is no doubt that’s those considering medical Web 2.0 tools will come up with some fancy (and complicated) ways to record your pain levels. But for now you can have a thorough log of your chronic illness and pain levels in just minutes at no cost. You can’t beat that!

Lisa Copen is the founder of Invisible Illness Awareness Week held annually in Sept and featuring a free 5-day virtual conference w/ 20 seminars w/ 20 speakers. Follow II Week on Twitter for prizes and info. Blog about invisible illness on your site, be a featured guest blogger, meet others, read articles and lots more. Make a difference!

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