The most effective partnerships with health professionals involve mutual respect and understanding, being informed, asking questions, open discussion and participation in all decisions. Most health professionals welcome patients who show an open interest in understanding and managing their conditions and want to participate in decision making to get the best outcome.
The most effective health care partnerships usually involve:
- Having an active interest in your health and knowing about your health condition
- Having a doctor who you feel comfortable and can communicate with
- Being well prepared for appointments – being on time, knowing what you want, having questions, etc.
- Taking time to explore options and when making big decisions, and being open to getting a second opinion.
Choosing a doctor
There is more to choosing a doctor than you think.
Unfortunately, due to geographical location, it is not possible for some people to see a doctor of their choice. However, with advances in telemedicine, some specialists are now doing follow up consultations via the internet after an initial face to face consultation.
Developing a partnership
We all have our own learning and communication styles and it is important for you to identify your own style and help guide the doctor in providing the information in a way you can absorb and understand it.
Think about how you learn best, do you prefer:
- having things drawn and explained
- hearing stories to illustrate the point
- listening to detailed descriptions
- to discuss the options
- do your own research with specific search terms or websites or
- a combination of these learning styles.
Understanding your learning style will help you adapt your questions and guide the doctor in how the information is communicated.
Preparing for appointments
It is not unusual to have an appointment with your doctor and find that your questions have not been answered or you completely forgot to ask them.
In order to get the most out of your limited time with your doctor, it is worth putting in the time to prepare. Think of it as a business meeting and prepare an ‘agenda’.
- In the days or weeks before your scheduled appointment, write a list of questions and add to this list as new questions come to mind. Keep a diary of any ‘events’ or seizures that may have occurred and take this to your appointment.
- A day or two before your appointment, review the list and prioritise the questions. Take a critical look at the questions and work out which ones you could answer by doing an internet search and which ones are specific to your personal epilepsy diagnosis. Your doctor has a limited time with you and realistically will not be able to answer all your questions so try and limit it to the most important 3 or 4 questions or try to book a longer appointment.
- Prepare and practice giving a succinct medical history in the order it happened, starting with why you are in the office, what happened and when it happened. Then outline any signs and symptoms you may have been experiencing that you think are related and how long they have been happening. List any other health conditions you have plus all medications or treatments you are using.
- The doctor will probe for more information if needed so avoid going off on a tangent with too much detail unless asked for it.
- It is important to be completely honest with your doctor as they can only make recommendations and changes to treatment based on the information you do or do not give them. Anything you say to your doctor is confidential. If you are struggling to remember to take medication three times a day, let them know that you miss doses and why it is difficult. This will help with finding an ideal medication regime that suits you and your lifestyle. Remember this is a team effort and the doctor cannot predict all the challenges you may face. If you say nothing the doctor will assume you are in agreement with what is proposed.
- If you are unsure, make sure you ask the doctor to clarify what your diagnosis is, or if there is no clear diagnosis what they think the most likely diagnoses are, how this is going to be narrowed down and over what time.
- If tests are ordered ask the doctor to explain them, what the tests may or may not show and how much they may cost.
- If you have a definite diagnosis, ask what the next steps are in the treatment plan and what it may mean for the future, how will it impact on your ability to drive, work, study, recreation, safety aspects you need to be aware of and potential risk factors for injury or loss of life.
- To help you focus your questions and narrow the topics you would like to discuss with your doctor you may like to download the Epilepsy Wellbeing Map.
Seeking second opinions
Many people are hesitant to seek a second opinion and worry how their current treating doctor will react.
You may also like to read the article Seeking a Second Opinion in the Epilepsy 360˚ Magazine.