Patient heal thy self Time for honest dialogue with yourself Jack Vaughn wanted to lose weight. So as his annual physical was winding down he asked his physician Dr. Paul Dugan for some advice. Dr. Dugan — a thorough general practitioner that founded Roseville’s Start-aHeart 24-hour cardio pulmonary resuscitation effort that take life-saving skills to over 4,000 people once a year — mumbled a couple of things and turned away. Jack was mad. When he went back six months later for a follow-up, Dr. Dugan was astonished. He told Jack that he couldn’t believe that he’d lost 20 pounds. Jack replied that it was no thanks to him and proceeded to tell him how he brushed him off when he made inquiries about losing weight. Dr. Dugan apologized, saying that 95 percent of the time patients ask questions about losing weight but they simply ignore him so he tended not to make much of an effort any longer. Jack was my best friend some 28 years ago. And for the record, Dr. Dugan is a solid physician in my book. The incident and exchanges underscore how we often squander precious face-to-face time with physicians and in doing so lessen the quality of our health and health care. If we constantly ignore advice by essentially not having an honest dialogue with physicians we get exactly what we ask for, which is anything but the best possible outcome. That doesn’t mean one must follow every bit of advice a doctor gives you. It’s your body
and your life. But if you’re not willing to communicate honestly, listen, and give what the two of you discuss serious thought then why bother to go to a doctor? The failure of many of us to have an honest dialogue with not just health care professionals but with ourselves is one reason why medical costs are so expensive and serious health issues seem to keep growing. Denial and the expectations of a magical pill to reverse years of bad habits are great ways to assure you get the minimum from a doctor’s visit. Here’s some general advice I’ve gleaned from talking with doctors one-on-one over the years with during a visit or when are sharing their general frustrations with patients during a bicycle ride or a hiking trip: u Make physicians aware of
all of your medical history. To save time and to make sure I don’t forget anything, I will type it all up and hand it to the doctor. When I recently went for a gout flare-up, I not only listed heredity and knee damage issues connected with it but when I had previous flare-ups, how I dealt with them, my diet over the years and what I was eating prior to the flare-up. u Don’t lie. Doctors aren’t stupid. Doctors are also human. It’s important to remember that since trust is key to making a physician-patient relationship work. u Don’t make them guess. Yes, physicians are highly trained but they aren’t you. Without you telling them everything they ask about whether it is your diet, drinking habits, drug use -legal and otherwise, exercise routine, sleeping habits and such they will be mak-
ing an educated guess at best. u Be a part of the process. Ask questions. Double check advice. u Assess advice you are given. Don’t take advice as the gospel. Make sure you understand what you are told. Take recommendations and weigh them against your own values and what you want in terms of your health and lifestyle. u Take charge. Just like there are no magical pills, there is no such thing as a magical doctor’s visit. This means if you need to make changes to your lifestyle to improve your heath, do it. Doctors can’t write a prescription for a pill to replace a need to modify diets and change exercise habits. u Make a commitment. You went to the doctor for a reason. Unless you simply enjoy paying high insurance premiums and making co-payments you need to commit more than just a 10-minute office visit. u Don’t be embarrassed. There are people embarrassed to go to a doctor for an ailment because they are overweight. Been there, done that. Think of it this way: Does it make sense to spend a weekend cleaning your house before a hired housekeeper arrives just so you won’t be embarrassed? If you didn’t need a cleaner, why hire one? The reason is simple: They should be able to do a better job than you can. Having a doctor or a health coach guide you through weight loss and establishing a fitness program is a lot more effective than trial and error. Not only can it not be as effective but you might miss key things that may make a world of difference in your health and wellness.