Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Medical System Is Not Set Up to Allow Patients to be Actively Engaged in Treatment #MHAM

Wow, Migraine awareness month already! Okay, so it's actually about headache disorders but I like to focus on migraines because that's my deal.

The theme this year is: Rule Your Headache Disorder - be actively engaged in your treatment.

This is a wonderful theme as it is such an important part of optimizing our lives, yet it's complicate and multidimensional.

Today I'd like to talk a bit about being actively engaged in treatment. I put this in the category of "easier said than done." The medical system in this country is not set up to have patients actively engaged in their treatment. Doctors don't have time to even get the full story, let alone deal with all our questions and concerns. Plus their fragile, overly inflated egos certainly won't stand to be doubted or challenged by some stupid patient. What do we know about it anyway? We didn't go to medical school.

So what's a patient to do?

1. Get informed. Read everything you can about your condition(s). Try hard to stay up to date on the latest research and treatments. When it comes down to it, doctors can't stay up to date on every condition. Unless you are seeing a migraine specialist, you can't assume your doctor is going to know much about migraines and even less about chronic migraines.

2. If you can, seek treatment from a migraine specialist. Not a neurologist who treats people with migraines but someone who just treats headache disorders. I say "if you can" because not everyone has access to a migraine specialist. There are not nearly enough specialists to treat everyone with headache disorders in this country. I wasted years trying different medications at inadequate dosages from a neurologist, until I got a good migraine specialist. It makes a world of difference to have a knowledgeable doctor.

3. Don't settle for a doctor who clearly doesn't value your perspective as a patient. Is there anything more insulting than having your valid questions or concerns dismissed by your doctor? All the knowledge in the world doesn't do any good for any doctor who can't communicate with their patient. Any doctor worth a damn needs to be able to get their patients on board with the treatment plan. That won't happen if they can't or won't address our questions and concerns.

4. Don't be afraid to speak up and challenge what your doctor is telling you or doing. This is a hard thing to do. Doctors can be sensitive and defensive. But any doctor that gets that way is not a good doctor - and there are lots of them out there. It's our job as patients to ask lots of questions so we can understand what's going on. The better we understand what's going on, the better job we can do taking care of ourselves and communicating with everyone around us.

5. Keep looking. Doctor hunting is the worst!! Starting over time after time after time. The continued frustration and dehumanizing experience of dealing with bad doctors and/or bad support staff. But we all deserve better and the only way to get that is to keep looking. And looking. And looking - until we find someone great or at least someone who is good.

When it comes down to it, we have to deal with the very imperfect system we find ourselves currently living in. I think the main thing is to trust ourselves and never give up. We need to just do the best we can and keep on fighting for ourselves because nobody else is going to.

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