Treat Your Doctor Like Your Auto Mechanic

Going to the doctor is scary, isn’t it?  When you meet with a medical professional, what they tell you can be scary.  And it carries some gravity, because they are, after all, professionals, right?

Sort of.

Your doctors are the best source of information and should be relied on when making decisions about your health.  Remember that they are, after all, human beings first, and can make mistakes.  In fact, over 100,000 people will die in America this year from a medical mistake.  They can be as drastic as a mistake during a surgery to something seemingly careless like a miss-read prescription.  Sometimes it is a doctor’s physical action, and sometimes it is inadequate care.

But there are things that you can do to help reduce your risk (and your doctor’s risk!) and improve the quality of your care.  And it’s really very similar to talking to your auto mechanic.

When you take your car in for service, you tend to be pretty specific about what’s going on.  You describe a certain sound, a vibration, or colorful smoke spouting off from under the hood.  When you meet with your doctor, you should share everything.  Your discussion should not be limited to what you immediately think is wrong with you.  One symptom may be linked to another and may be an indication of a larger problem.  Doing this is easier if you prepare a list of what’s ailing you.

You also question your mechanic after he’s made his initial diagnosis.  When your doctor offers his or her opinion, start asking your questions.  What causes this?  How will you fix this?  Are there any other things that could cause this to happen?  This is partly for your own information, but it will often make your doctor think outside of the box, and perhaps realize that they’ve diagnosed incorrectly or overlooked something.

Use your common sense.  If your transmission is slipping and the garage wants to sell you brakes, you would certainly question that.  You are truly the best judge of how you feel, so take that confidence into your doctor’s office.  If you are used to certain medications, question the side effects and interactions of any new ones.  Ask why a doctor recommends a certain medication or procedure.

When you’ve gone to a doctor, or to your mechanic, you have formed a relationship.  It’s a partnership of sorts, with one of you needing service and the other providing it.  Keep this in mind on your next visit, and help your doctor make the right decisions for you.

After all, doctors don’t offer rentals.

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