The Ambition: from the patients’ point of view

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Taking this role in your own health care is going to take a change in attitude.

My intention is to mount an argument to stimulate discussion. This is not intended to be a comprehensive blueprint for change.

Previously we have been used to conducting practice in a top-down fashion, in which doctors tell people what to do, and patients are supposed to listen and obey. This no longer fits the times. The way we, on both sides, listen and speak to each other, must change. But a new way of relating implies added responsibilities on both sides. Healing must become a two-way exchange in which both sides speak, listen, engage, and commit to a new accountability.

As of now, what can you do, as an individual with a health issue, to best help yourself?  How can you help your doctor to work efficiently towards timely diagnosis and treatment?

My aim is to equip you, as far as you can, to take control of your own health. Sensible health information is now readily available in review articles in daily newspapers and online. Radio programs about simple life-style changes are increasingly popular. The urge to improve lifestyle and diet in healthy sustainable ways has fostered a growing ‘health information trend’, especially among young people. Differences in patient confidence is, however, often age-related. Older generations are less likely to read health information and to experiment with lifestyle changes for themselves. They are less likely to take up jogging, visit a gym, reduce alcohol intake or stop smoking.

In addition, interactions with health professionals for many remain daunting.

Information shared by doctors can be misunderstood, seem incomprehensible, or accepted without questioning. This is where research comes in. There are many depressing, even tragic, stories of people who, for example, have accepted a diagnosis at face value. A poor outlook (prognosis) may have been correctly spelt out. A good doctor however will never leave a patient without hope. There is always, at a minimum, supportive care and symptom control available. But what is there to lose in seeking to verify advice for yourself? Just taking control of some part of your life is life-enhancing in itself.

It is important to feel that you have ‘permission’ to look further. It is after all your life.

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