Throughout the years that I have been a patient, I have had many doctors and medical subspecialty teams looking after me. The most I had in a single hospital admission was 7 (subspecialties). Yup, that’s a lot. A lot of doctors to interact with and a lot of information and care plans to digest. It was so mind-boggling that I decided to write down in my journal the important clinical impressions that my doctors have made for me and the key treatment plans that they have prescribed, so as not to lose sight of things.
Journaling those information really helped me remember details. Otherwise, I wouldn’t remember the results of the investigations performed or how those results led my doctors to order further tests. However, I occasionally found myself struggling to understand how those details fit into the big picture due to the sheer number of inputs from everyone involved. When I found myself in that position, I try to clarify with my doctors as quickly and as much as I can. Of course, there are other reasons why you (patients) should clarify things with your doctors too.
Care Plans Are Dynamic
Doctors change clinical impressions and the corresponding treatment plans depending on the development of your symptoms and signs, as well as investigation results. This can happen over a short period of time or longer. The key point is things in the healthcare setting, especially care plans, change all the time. Therefore, it is important that you clarify any parts of your care plans that you are unsure of, particularly those that have been recently changed by your healthcare providers.
“The key point is things in the healthcare setting, especially care plans, change all the time.”
It’s for Your Safety
Your care plans may change very quickly in the healthcare setting, making it hard for you to adjust. If you are unable to quickly adapt to those changes, your safety might be at risk. For example, patients whose medication dosages keep on changing may face risks of medication error which could result in severe patient harm. That being the case, it is highly advisable that you clarify details in your care plans that have changed or are known to change frequently so that you are protected from preventable harms.
It’s Your Responsibility
I’ve written briefly about Patients’ Rights & Responsibility in a previous post. You can check it out here or read an example from Ramsay Sime Darby Healthcare here. Basically, patients are entitled to certain rights and are expected to fulfil certain responsibilities. Asking questions (clarifying) to better understand your care is your responsibility as patients. In turn, you can expect healthcare providers to answer your questions in ways that enable you to make informed decisions, as that is your (patients’) right.
“Asking questions (clarifying) to better understand your care is your responsibility as patients.”
It Supports Patient Autonomy
It is vital that you understand although doctors’ decisions based on their clinical knowledge and experience are often correct, the final decisions still lie in your hands. You must make decisions for yourselves (patient autonomy) and not be coerced into any decision by your healthcare providers. In order for you to make those informed decisions, you should ask questions pertaining to your health and care plans so that you are absolutely clear about it. Remember, you have got to play active roles in the management of your care too.
Now that you have understood why it is necessary to clarify things with your doctors, you need to know what to ask them, right? Please take time to view this interesting and relevant short TEDxOslo talk video by a Norwegian Neurosurgeon, Christer Mjåset, which points out that there are basically four (4) essential questions that you as patients need to ask your doctors. If you prefer to read about it instead, here is the article that summarises the video, which is written at ideas.ted.com.
Thank you for reading. Please share your experience in clarifying details about your health or care plans with your doctors in the comment section below. I would like to know more about it, particularly if there are barriers that prevented you from doing so.