Patient, Advocate Thyself

While perusing Boston.com today, I came across the Daily Dose blog from Deborah Kotz who references a column from the New England Journal of Medicine about the link between outcomes and physician sleep deprivation.

In her blog, Deborah poses the following questions: 

“Would you want to know if your surgeon was awake on call the previous night? Would you opt for a different surgeon for your procedure?”

I referenced blind trust in a previous blog, like the blind trust we sometimes place in doctors and mechanics.

But this is not something you want to fool around with.  This is your health.

Patient, advocate thyself.

Times they are a changing.  Patient Advocacy is becoming more than a buzz word.  It is becoming a necessity.  And it makes a great New Year’s Resolution, too!

I would pose not a question, but a statement to anyone who is planning to undergo surgery. 

Ask your doctor if he/she has been on call. Ask if he/she is sleep deprived.  Ask if he/she is feeling under the weather, tired or in any way impaired.

Ok, so I posed a bunch of statements…and those statements are about asking questions of your doctor before you undergo surgery.  In fact, you may want to create a checklist of questions for your healthcare provider every time you see one and not just when you’re about to undergo surgery. 

Create a list of questions for your annual physical. Create a list of questions for your next check up on your chronic condition. Create a list of questions when you sustain an acute injury (like a broken leg) and need to see a doctor.  Research your condition on sites like Revolution Health or WebMD prior to your visit.  Know your symptoms prior to your visit. 

With doctors spending around 15 minutes with each patient (some industry experts are predicting this will decrease in 2011) we need to maximize our valuable time with the doctor.  Coming prepared, asking good questions, and advocating for ourselves will go a long way to assure that we receive the best care possible.

In short, advocate for yourself.  Don’t leave it to the doctor to disclose lack of sleep or ask the right questions about your condition.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to take a nap.  All this talk of sleep deprivation is making me tired. And in the interest of full disclosure and patient advocacy, no I don’t have surgery in the morning.

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