Being a Smart Patient

smart patientDr. Oz’s book, YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider’s Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment, has a lot of highly useful information for helping the elderly get better health care. The book is actually written for everyone but has some key points that are especially poignant for the elderly and the important role a caregiver can play in their lives as a patient advocate. Being a smart patient can improve your health, reduce hospital admissions, ensure you are getting the right medications, and that procedures and tests that you get are actually needed. In short, Being a smart patient can even save your life.

We’ve included a link to the book in this post because we think you might find it a very useful tool. We’ve also included a video of Dr. Oz talking about this subject in this post. One of the things he recommends in this video is to write down your questions before you go to the doctor and give a copy to your doctor to ensure your questions are answered.

He also strongly suggest that you never talk to a doctor without a patient advocate with you and a tape recorder to ensure you get the best quality care. Some people might feel uncomfortable doing this, but it is important. Simply explain to your doctor that you brought the tape recorder and an advocate because you are going to pay attention to everything the doctor says; you are going to listen to it later and learn it.

A quote from the video. Dr. Oz says

“…doctor’s know. We’re taught this early in our training. Fifty percent of what we tell a patient during an office visit is forgotten. By the time you leave the room! …That day they’ll forget 50%. So, if you’re talking to somebody and you know they’re going to forget half of what you tell them before you leave the room, well you’re not going to pay attention to it all that much. You’re going to rush through the conversation and get through it, which is exactly what we do. So having a tape recorder means you are going to listen to me again. I’ll take my time. I’ll speak clearly, succinctly to the important topics, I’ll address the questions that ought to be addressed, and you’ll hold that information dear to you because you will be able to revisit it.”

Having a patient advocate along will allow the opportunity for questions to be asked that you might not have thought of, and this is especially important for most conditions, whether that is about a change in medication, the reason for a test, or the necessity of a procedure.

Did you know these facts?

  • The number of preventable hospital deaths per year is about equal to the total combined deaths of all US soldiers in the Vietnam War, plus the deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the US each year, plus the deaths from HIV/AIDs and deaths from diabetes in the US each year. As many as 98,000 patients die every year due to hospital errors!
  • That only about 20% of people seek a second opinion and that in about one-third of those cases the treatment is changed substantially!

Did you know that your most accessible and least expensive health care resource is your pharmacist? Pharmacists have an amazing wealth of knowledge, and consultations are free. As a pharmacists they see clients with similar conditions using different medications every day. They also see patients who complain about side effects and they know what side effect could mean serious trouble. They are qualified to do a Brown Bag Review of your medications, as well. Involving your pharmacist as part of your health care plan is being a smart patient, especially for the elderly who are often on many different kinds of medication, and that medication may have been prescribed by different doctors who may not be communicating with one another.

Book You the SMart PaitentYou: The Smart Patient is subdivided as follows:

1. Getting to Know You (Information that is important to convey to your doctor)
2. Finding Doctor Right (not all doctors are created equal, 50% of all doctors finished medical school in the bottom 50% or their graduating class)
3. Let’s Play Operational (what you should know if you are scheduling surgery)
4. Prescription Drugs
5. How to Case a Hospital (choosing a safe hospital)
6. Have a Happily Humdrum Hospital Stay
7. Why You Should Always Get a Second Opinion
8. Just What Gives You the Right (Patient Rights)
9. Considering the Alternatives (Alternative Medicine)
10. Take Control of Your Health Insurance
Appendix 1: Medical Jargon Explained
Appendix 2: Sample Forms (Your Health Journal, Living Will, Power of Attorney for Health Care, Do Not Resuscitate Order)
Appendix 3: Resources