Addressing a serious health issue can often be like solving a seemingly unsolvable puzzle.
Medical decisions are never easy to make. We put so much faith in doctors and other healthcare professionals that we often forget that they are humans that are very capable of being stressed, overburdened or make mistakes – especially working within the parameters that are currently taxing the healthcare system.
As a complementary health care provider, I often see patients who have fallen through the cracks of mainstream medicine. I can attest to the fact that it often takes a team to help someone through a healing crisis. The strongest network a practitioner can build is a strong referral network – where other colleagues and specialists, together, recognise a patient’s needs, identify any red flags and then in a collaborative way approach the plan of care with the mindset of patient centered care.
My patients will often ask me how they can make the best decision for their health. If their question falls within the scope of my practice, I will often guide them. Otherwise, they will need to seek out advice from an MD or specialist. There are a number of things I let my patients know when making medical decisions:
Know Your Practitioner’s Scope of Practice
Patient’s often get frustrated when they have a long standing medical problem that seemingly has no answer. This is the time to ask your GP or other specialist for a referral. Ask candidly about your doctor’s scope of practice – any medical professional should easily be able to answer this question. For example: Let’s say Patient X has knee pain. This patient goes to the orthopedist and they have osteoarthritis of the knee, but are not a candidate for surgery at this time. The orthopedist could then refer them for acupuncture and physical therapy to improve pain levels and functional movement.
Often times, the reverse also happens, I may be seeing a patient for sciatic pain that is stalled or not improving. I may then refer back to the orthopedist for an evaluation, where there may be a recommendation for surgery. These relationships happen in all specialities of medicine and should be seen as a strength to help patient’s gather as much information to better understand and solve their health issues.
Seek a Second (or Third) Opinion
When in doubt seek a second opinion. Many patients feel shy about seeking a second opinion for fear of offending their doctor. I always encourage people to seek a second opinion. A fresh set of eyes can often work wonders on a case or bring more information on treatment options to the table. Patient centered care rests on the ability of healthcare providers to effectively communicate with one another to ensure the best possible results for their patients – especially in cases of chronic illness and cancer.
Understand Your Resources
- Always bring a friend or family member to write information down or ask questions you may forget at your appointments.
- Ask your doctor what the best way to reach them if questions come up later on or between appointments. Many doctors make themselves available via email or patient portals or during certain times of the day or week for phone calls.
- Come prepared to your appointments with any follow up questions to ask. MayoClinic.Org has wonderful and accessible information for patients to better understand their condition and the treatment modalities available.
- Ask your provider for resources to help you understand your diagnosis and treatment options more thoroughly.
- Understand your Insurance benefits. This is extremely important for most people to understand the financial implications of their treatment plan. This is best discussed openly first within the family and then with the medical practice you are seeking treatment. Some facilities offer hardship fees under certain circumstances. Do not be afraid to ask the question.
Making a Heart Centered Decision
The most challenging part for many people is synthesizing all the information presented – especially if a decision needs to be made relatively quickly. It’s always a good idea ahead of illness (if possible) to sit down and make a decision as a family about medical care.
- What are you willing to undergo or not undergo and under what circumstances?
- What course of action benefits both myself and the family as a whole?
- What are the financial implications of these decisions?
- What do I want my life to look like moving forward?
- How can I live with my diagnosis and also live in peace?
- If I can’t be ‘cured,’ what steps might I take to help with ‘healing?’
It can often be difficult to remember all of these things as you navigate through a chronic illness, so if you are unable to act as an advocate for yourself, make sure you enlist the help of others. It truly takes a village.
About the writer:
Catherine Craig M.S. L.Ac. is a Board Certified and Licensed Acupuncturist, specializing in chronic & acute pain management, holistic lifestyle & dietary counseling, and chronic disease management. She received her Clinical Masters of Science in Acupuncture from the Tri-State College of Acupuncture, and received her Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College.
Catherine came to practice these ancient medical arts after being inspired by her own journey of recovery from a debilitating chronic pain condition, and a subsequent battle with thyroid cancer.
She uses a highly personalized one-on-one approach and practical real-life solutions to help her patients on their individual path to wellness. Catherine’s passion and real-world experience bring a new perspective to health, nutrition, and personal wellness.
To learn more about Catherine’s practice visit her at http://acuevolution.com