Look Closer to Become An Active Member of Your Care Team
By Collin E. M. Brathwaite, MD FASMBS
It used to be so simple: When you became sick, you made an appointment to see a doctor. In turn, your doctor would make all of the decisions about your health care, including which medical professionals to refer you to and which ones were part of your health care team.
But today, patients are more likely to try to take charge of their healthcare. They are more likely to decide which professionals to bring aboard, which ones are best for their needs, and what credentials they should have.
The truth is, you may not always need a traditional physician to assemble your healthcare team—but should you try to do it all yourself? Today, the advent of google searches and easy access medical websites has many patients believing that they may know better than the doctor how to treat their disease process. Some basic knowledge about the disease is important to have prior to your consultation with the doctor because it allows you to follow the course of the discussion and to understand some of the references to anatomy and medical jargon. What it should NOT do is give you the idea that you have the best course of action for your condition and your long-term health BEFORE you go and meet with the doctor.
You can’t google how to cure cancer and get a real answer. You can go to the appointment with an idea of what they might suggest but keep your mind open to what the options are, and what kind of new strategies for treatment they might be offering. Then you should go home and do more research if not completely satisfied.
Now that you have the information, become your own best advocate. Ask questions about how the treatments will work for you, how often you will require them, and how they are expected to show results. If you are on a weight loss program, what is the expected weight loss, over what period of time, how much per week, how best to optimize it, etc.
If you are losing weight, track your weight so you can compare this to what your bariatric program has suggested. What if you are losing too much, too fast? Or you are losing, but not enough, not as fast as expected? Tracking will allow you to stay aware and connected with your weight loss goals. Then you are more prepared to discuss this with your bariatric program at your next office visit. And, if you don’t have another office visit for another month or six months, you can intervene sooner by contacting the office. What if you are feeling nauseous due to a medication that is known to have that as a side effect? It can quickly be rectified.
Follow up appointments are crucial. You have to get together with your bariatric team so that you can track your progress and plan the course for where you are going. Whether you are fighting a disease like cancer or struggling against a disease like obesity the plan is the same, fight it from all fronts. Good healthy diet, exercise and a strong and focused medical team are your best allies. You are the one member of the team with the most invested in the process. Your success is dependent on your ability to participate in making your needs known to the team and following up to ensure that you do what you can to make the healthy changes to your lifestyle.