Short stories, Travel and Health Information
AN INSTRUCTION MANUAL FOR PATIENTS
I have often thought that before people go to consult a doctor, they should be given an Instruction Manual.
Just like one gets a manual when one buys a new electrical appliance or mobile phone, one should also be given a simple set of instructions as to how one can get the best use of one’s doctor. After all, doctors are not all-knowing deities (even though some of us doctors act as if we think we are!!) who can magically solve your problem and cure you of your ailments – they are human beings who need all the help they can get so that they can diagnose and advise you. In a sense, a doctor to whom you go with your symptoms is like a detective who has to solve a problem – and just as in the case of the detective, the more reliable clues they are provided with, the better the chances that they will be able to provide a solution.
The first and most important advice I can give you is to write down your symptoms. The word Symptom is defined as a physical or mental problem that someone experiences – in other words, something that you feel is not normal.
There are many symptoms that bring a patient to consult a doctor. It could be something like a pain, a swelling, a feeling of malaise or a loss of weight or appetite. Obviously you want to consult this doctor because you feel that something is not normal – and you want the doctor to find out what is causing this feeling of abnormality and hopefully relieve you of this problem.
So write down exactly what you are concerned about. When did you last feel ‘normal’? When did these symptoms commence? You don’t have to be precise – but a general idea of when you first started to feel that something was wrong will be helpful for the doctor. Record what makes these symptoms worse and what if anything makes them better – and if you have taken any remedies for them up to now. If the problem is a pain or a lump or a rash, make sure you can point out exactly where it is located on your body. Have you ever had symptoms like this in the past – and if so, what was done to relieve the problem?
Tell the doctor if anybody in your immediate family (parents and siblings) has had similar problems. Also, it is important to make the doctor aware of what, if any, regular medications (eg for high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma) you are currently taking – and if you have had any medical conditions or operations in the past. All this information helps your doctor (your detective) to use their knowledge and experience to formulate a working diagnosis.
Sometimes, the first consultation may not provide enough information for the doctor to come up with a diagnosis, in which case you may need some tests – blood test, x-rays etc. If you have had any tests in the past, take these reports to show the doctor, because this may provide clues to the diagnosis – and at least will provide a baseline of what your readings were before you developed the new symptoms.
Remember, it is difficult for doctors to help you – unless you help them to help you!
Hi Doc, It’s also good to tell the Sri Lankan general public (patients) that rather than rushing to a consultant physician or a specialist doctor, it’s always best that they go through general physicians first and get referred to the correct specialist doctor if it matters. That way, valuable resources (specialist doctors) which is also scares can be saved to be better utilized.
Best, Indrajith Boyagoda.
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