Who’s the most important member of your health care team? Does your doctor come to mind? Your pharmacist, perhaps? A nurse?
There’s no doubt that all of these people can play key roles in protecting your health. But it’s easy to forget the one person who might have the most important role of all: you.
Your doctor, of course, directs your overall health care. And he or she depends on other health professionals and their skills and expertise. But it’s you who must follow their instructions to get the results you’re hoping for — whether that’s to stay well, recover from an illness or injury or manage a chronic health condition. That’s why clearly understanding what your health care providers tell you is especially important.
As changes resulting from health care reform begin to take shape, following the guidance of your health care team will take on added weight. Extra emphasis will be placed on keeping people well and out of the hospital. And in many cases, that will depend on patients closely following their doctor’s advice.
Here at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, changes in the way we deliver care should help make that possible — particularly with a move toward patient-centered medical homes based around our primary care physicians.
“A medical home is a physician clinic,” said Teresa Vanderford, director of care management at Southeastern. “But it’s more about a model of care.”
In the model, doctors lead a team of professionals who focus on managing the care of the whole person at all stages of life. They get to know you well and take overall responsibility for meeting your health care needs, and they bring in others as needed. The focus is on personalized, coordinated care that’s effective and easy to access. And it depends on good communication.
Communication, of course, is a two-way street. And it can be challenging when it comes to health-related information.
“Medical terminology is like a whole other language — a foreign language,” said Vanderford.
Southeastern doctors and other providers are making an effort to communicate with patients in ways that are easy to understand, such as offering easy-to-read brochures. And we’re developing programs that will help you better understand your role in managing long-term conditions such as heart failure.
But when things aren’t clear to you, we need you to tell us and to ask questions.
“People ask 100 questions in a restaurant or a department store, but the second they get in front of their physician, they ask no questions,” said Vanderford.
For your own health and safety, it’s important to speak up. And we encourage you to. It may keep you in better health. And it may also help you reduce costs.
There are many things that can be hard to understand in a medical setting. For example, you may be unsure about when or how to take the medicine your doctor has ordered for you. Perhaps you have asthma and are confused about what to do when your peak flow meter readings fall within a certain range.
No matter the situation, don’t hesitate to ask for help or clarification. And don’t be embarrassed. Getting the best possible health care depends on you speaking up and learning as much as you can about your condition and how to care for yourself properly.
If you have more questions than your doctor has time to answer, ask if someone else can give you information. Or you might ask to speak with the doctor again at a later time.
In addition to asking questions, the following steps can also help:
n Bring a paper and pen to your appointment to take notes.
n Record your conversation. Be sure to get your provider’s permission first.
n Invite a friend or family member to go along with you. A second set of ears might pick up something you miss and give you another place to turn with questions.
n Repeat back what you heard in your own words to make sure you’ve understood things correctly.
n Ask for written instructions. You can also ask if there are brochures or other educational materials that might be helpful. Be sure to mention if you need the information in a language other than English.
Remember, it takes a team to deliver high-quality health care. And you’re the captain. To find a Southeastern affiliated clinic near you, logon to www.srmc.org and clinic on “Our Services.”