A few weeks ago, I recorded a vlog titled: Becoming Your Best Advocate. The recording gave tips that people could use to navigate the complex world of healthcare. In this post, I wanted to share another tip that can help improve communication, allow you to understand your condition and be better prepared as you transition through your plan of care.
Recently a friend of mine had a colonoscopy. During the procedure, the doctor found several polyps. All but one was able to be removed during the colonoscopy, but one polyp was too big to remove. As a result, she was sent to a surgeon. She made an appointment to see the surgeon and on the appointed day went to the appointment. She did not ask anyone to go with her as she is a very independent woman and did not think it was a ‘big deal’. When she met the doctor, she asked if she could record the visit with her cell phone so she could share the information with her family. The doctor said yes! So she turned on her phone and recorded the entire visit.
This was a brilliant idea as it gave her family and friends the opportunity to actually hear what the doctor said and insight into my friend’s reaction to the news she was getting. The recording is powerful as it showed her surprise to much of what the doctor said – as she thought removing the polyp would be ‘routine’. At one point, the doctor told her, “this is a major procedure” but you will get through it.
Here are some things that I learned from this experience:
- Ask permission to record your doctor’s visit. Our cell phones are powerful tools and can come in handy when we have to see a doctor or get instructions from a nurse or other healthcare professional. Most health care professionals are glad to have the visit recorded as it gives the patient and the family a way to review the information that was given and formulate questions that might come up after they leave the office.
- Be prepared. My friend had a list of questions for the doctor as a result of the research she did in preparation for the visit. This was good as it helped him understand that my friend had done ‘some homework’ prior to coming to see him and wanted to be prepared. She knew a little about what might happen and was able to follow the doctor’s thinking process as he explained the procedure. Recording the visit also allowed her to review the information after the visit. The recording also showed that the doctor clarified things and set expectations so that my friend was better prepared for the journey she was about to take.
- Bring someone with you to any doctor’s appointment. As we don’t know what is going to be said when we meet with a doctor, it is a good idea to have someone with you when you go to a doctor’s appointment. Having your spouse, a family member or a trusted friend is important especially if you get information that is difficult to hear. In listening to the audio, I noted the surprise from my friend to the information the doctor was delivering. The doctor laid out various scenarios that might arise during the procedure so my friend was aware. He ran down a list of ‘what ifs’ and you can tell by the reaction of my friend on the audio, that she did not expect the news she was receiving. Having the recording allowed her to re-listen to information and share with her family and friends so they could also understand the plan of care and provide support.
- Information builds trust: My friend asked some good questions as the doctor explained the plan. Listening to the recording I could tell she felt comfortable with the doctor. He answered her questions calmly and gave her time to process the information before going on. This is what builds trust between a doctor and a patient. The doctor took his time, laid out the plan and explained things in plain language so my friend could process the information. When a family member asked if she wanted to get a second opinion, she said no, because she felt comfortable with the doctor. If he would have had a condescending demeanor, the scenario could have been different, but my friend felt comfortable with the information she was given and was confident in the doctor. This allowed them to start building a relationship based on open communication and trust.
- Use the information to make plans. Because she had the audio and played it for various members of her family and her friends, she began to contemplate a plan and how she was going to get through the procedure. As the doctor explained the plan, she began to think about how disruptive this was going to be to her job and her life in general. As the information began to sink in, she was able to make a list of what she needed to do and who she needed to tell so that she could get coverage for her classes and make arrangements for her dog to be walked. Doing this allowed her to regain control and concentrate on adjusting to the situation and prepare for the surgery.
- Information is powerful as it allows you to put things into perspective. Having good information allows you to look at the big picture. The information she received began to give her and her family a sense of what they were up against and how together they would cope.
To wrap up, my friend came through the procedure well. The polyp was benign and the procedure went well. She is recuperating at home and doing better every day!
If you find yourself thrust into the healthcare system, remember YOU are the only constant when you enter the healthcare system. Your cell phone is one of the tools you can use to hear information, start to understand the information you are given and process that information so you move forward.
You do need to get permission to record your visit. Today, most doctors and other healthcare professionals are open to this, so don’t be shy. Once you are home, choose who you want to share the information with. Keep the recording handy as it will help you as you move forward.
I hope you share this post with family, friends and all members of the healthcare team so they are aware of how their cell phone can be a tool to increase communication and allow us to help people move through the complex healthcare system. Let me know what tools are you using to make you a more informed member of your team? Feel free to put a comment in the comment sections of what tools or strategies you have used so others can learn!
Have a good week!