Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How to Be a Prepared Patient

Be prepared to ask your doctor for written explanations and instructions.

(NewsUSA) - Aches and pains aren't always readily attributable to a particular disease, and receiving a medical diagnosis often takes more than one doctor's visit. Doctor-patient teamwork can help facilitate an efficient and proper diagnosis. Becoming an advocate for your own health and knowing the right questions to ask your doctor can help.

How can you take a more active role in helping your doctor understand your health condition? One simple solution provided by the Arthritis Foundation is to "Take P.A.R.T."

P - Prepare a list of questions, concerns and symptoms to discuss. Keep a detailed journal of your symptoms, including the times they occurred and associated environmental factors. For example, was a particular pain triggered by a certain food or activity?

A - Ask questions during your appointment. It's a good idea to bring a list of questions with you, as well as a friend or family member to ask questions you may not have identified.

R - Repeat what your doctor recommends so you can be sure you understand. Ask for written instructions.

T - Take action. Inform your doctor of your lifestyle and habits, as well as any concerns and preferences, so a treatment plan can be customized to your specific needs.

"Patients who track their symptoms are better prepared to communicate effectively with their doctors," said Dr. John Klippel, CEO of the Arthritis Foundation. "Accurate information helps both parties work together to determine the best possible treatment options."

Fostering open communication with one's doctor is particularly important for patients with hard-to-diagnose diseases like the autoimmune disorder rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as symptoms can be attributed to other medical conditions. Furthermore, there is no single diagnostic test for RA.

There are programs that help patients and doctors work together to manage health conditions by communicating openly. The Arthritis Foundation's Let's Talk RA program, sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, offers national meetings, educational podcasts and a communication kit that includes step-by-step discussion tips, as well as a symptom tracker that RA patients can use with their rheumatologists -; all at no cost.

The Let's Talk RA communication kit can be ordered at no charge through the Arthritis Foundation's Web site, www.arthritis.org/letstalkra

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