Health care is constantly changing. With advanced scientific innovations and progress in medical research, scientists and health care professionals are able to discover disease risk factors and are developing a myriad of tools for wellness. The public has become increasingly well educated, while developments in information technology allow everyone accessibility to an abundance of resources for information about health. These technological improvements are empowering for patients and can be used to improve the relationship between health care providers and patients.
Pharmacists and doctors should not be uncomfortable when patients discuss information learned from media
Patients often ask about new treatments based on advertisements and articles that lack scientific validity. This can be difficult for healthcare professionals to respond to, but if approached the correct way, such resources can be utilized in a safe and beneficial way. Some patients notice that their pharmacists and doctors may become uncomfortable when patients ask about information that they have obtained from sources such as news programs, magazines, or the Internet. The primary reason for this is that doctors often don’t know what the information source is, whether it is simply an advertisement, or whether it is accurate. More often than not, the information has some validity, but is often incomplete, lacking important components. Many news stories are designed for entertainment and shock value, presenting exceptions rather than the norm. Advertisements may exaggerate the need for treatments or imply overstated effectiveness, while blogs and other Internet sources may discuss untested or unproven ideas.
You can use health information resources systematically to improve your healthcare
As a neurologist, I was taken aback the first few times patients asked me about disease symptoms or treatments based on sources that had not been screened for accuracy. After a while, I learned that patients responded pleasantly when I respectfully discussed their inquiries and explained if their requests for certain treatments may not be the exact fit for their particular condition. In fact, many patients use this opportunity to ask for reliable resources and further material to understand their own health and treatment options. I also learned that the more patients read, the more patients notice relevant details about their own health that may have been otherwise overlooked. This improves communication and overall wellness. You can use health related resources systematically to become an effective advocate for your health.
Partner with your health care provider
As a person concerned about your own health and that of your loved ones, you can gain a great deal from the vast array of information available at your fingertips. Modern medicine is evidence based, subject to stringently designed scientific studies, accessible to everybody, and transparent. One can imagine primitive medicine, based on myths and superstition, was likely much more secretive, with little, if any, available data for patients. Thankfully, data about medical disease and treatments is readily available for the public. When you approach this massive mound of information with the understanding that you can trust and find data that has been subject to peer review and that as been duplicated in well designed studies, you can empower yourself to become a partner with your health care provider, improving your health and your well being.
About the Author
Heidi Moawad M.D. is author of Careers Beyond Clinical Medicine, a resource for health care professionals who are looking for career alternatives.
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