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How to make doctors work for you

There’s a tension between doctors and patients these days and it’s not all to do with how long it takes to get an appointment. By the time you do have an appointment and get there, there are 150 things more wrong with you but you are only allowed to talk about one thing because you only have 10 minutes.

It’s about the delivery of information. So yes, thanks to the interweb, we are all doctors now and masters of the art of self-diagnosis, but this really irritates real doctors because you probably don’t have a brain tumour. Nonetheless, sometimes the diagnosis is terrible and you are suddenly in a different kind of relationship with a whole host of medical personnel. So some lovely oncologists (such a terrifying word) wrote to the New York Times with a handy guide to being a better patient. Which we have adapted.

“Ask us to use common words and terms”

If your doctor says that you’ll end up with a “simple iliac ileal conduit,” you must say: “Hey doc, we know you’ve swallowed a medical dictionary but we have NO IDEA what you are talking about. Can you speak human please? Thank you.”

“Summarise back what you heard”

“So I should split my birth control pills in half and take half myself and give the other half to my boyfriend?” This woman has not understood.

“Request sources”

Remember in history GSCE when you got extra marks for using other sources. Well many doctors want you to request videos, pictures, documents, anything to make you a better student of your disease. Own it and understand it.

“Ask for best-case, worst-case, and most likely scenarios” 

Weirdly it would seem that this information isn’t volunteered. You have to ask for it. And yes it’s awful. But you need to know.

“Ask if you can talk to someone who has undergone the surgery

No brainer right?

“Take notes”

Also the doctors recommend bringing “someone else to your appointments to be your ‘accessory brain’.”

If the doctors object to any of the above, demand a second opinion. Be safe out there.

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