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“Doctor’s orders” – words that should not be taken lightly. While it is important to be proactively involved in your own health care, patients should accept the fact they are a novice while their doctors are experts.
When your Primary Care Physician (PCP) prescribes a medication, following his or her orders is critical. Doing so not only ensures effective treatment, but also helps prevent unwanted – and dangerous – side effects. Adjusting your dosage or stopping your medication altogether can make your condition worse. Ailments such as chronic pulmonary obstructive disease and asthma, for example, can be exacerbated by not taking medicine as directed. If you have concerns about your treatment plan, talk to your doctor instead of changing the dosage on your own.
According to US News & World Report, an estimated $300 billion is wasted each year in the U.S. because patients don’t follow their prescribed treatment regimens, which also lands many of them in the ER or in prolonged hospital stays.
The key to a proper, healthy relationship with your doctor is the same as it is to most relationships: good communication. During appointments, ask questions, take notes and make sure you understand everything that has been said about your health and your follow-up care.
A New England Journal of Medicine article about the relationship between patients and doctors says the partnership “has historically been framed in terms of benevolent paternalism.” The shift in recent decades though has put far more of the responsibility and decision-making on the patient, making it even more important to understand the doctor’s insight and knowledge of the most recent and relevant medical information. So next time you visit a medical office, be prepared, involved and engaged. Doctor’s orders! For help building a pre-visit checklist, click here.
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