Patient education is an extremely important concept for both doctors and patients to understand. Doctors have a responsibility to make sure that patients fully understand their medical conditions and the available treatment options so that they can make an informed decision about managing their health. Similarly, patients need to play an active role in their medical treatment and make an effort to understand not only the treatments that a doctor is suggesting but also why they are being suggested and what the alternatives are. All too often, patients and doctors fail to find a way to communicate effectively and the well-being of the patient is compromised.
The Role of the Patient
Patients should not play a passive role in the treatment of their medical condition. While a doctor does have a degree and experience, patients must remember that they have complete control over their bodies. They should never feel pressured into any type of treatment, or feel that the doctor is not making an effort to explain a treatment or their condition to them in full detail. Patients should educate themselves about their condition as soon as they receive a diagnosis in order to have an informed conversation with their doctor about treatment options. Doing research about available treatment options is also important so that you can ask your doctor his or her opinion about adding different modalities into your prescribed regimen.
The Role of the Doctor
Doctors need to recognize that patients may feel intimidated, overwhelmed, or helpless when it comes to their health and their treatments. Medical professionals will always encounter patients who seem unwilling to learn about their condition. And, of course, there is only so much that one can do to explain how a condition was caused, how it is progressing, and how it can be treated if the patient has no interest in understanding. However, many doctors may find that patients are grateful to get the education they need to be part of their treatment decisions. The most important part is communicating to them that you are willing to take the time to answer their questions.
The Importance of Good Communication
Good communication should be established at the beginning of any doctor-patient relationship. Even upon an initial consultation, patients should make it clear to the doctor that they expect to receive full explanations regarding any treatments that are suggested. If at that point the doctor seems unwilling to answer questions, the patient should keep looking for another care provider. If the doctor does try to answer questions, but seems to be using a lot of medical jargon, patients should not necessarily be discouraged. Doctors work in a fast-paced field where they need to communicate quickly and efficiently with other medical professionals, so “jargon” is not meant to confuse patients. Patients simply need to remind their doctors that they themselves are not doctors and would appreciate a simpler response. Do not think of this as “dumbing down” the response – this type of trial and error is all part of establishing open lines of honest communication between doctor and patient.
Resources for Patient Education
Patients do not need to go to medical school or read the Merck Medical Manual in order to educate themselves and play an active role in their treatment plan. There are countless online resources designed for patients to help them understand their prognosis and the treatment options available to them. The Internet is also an extremely valuable resource for patients who are trying to connect with other individuals dealing with similar medical conditions. Message boards, chat rooms, and patient forums are great places to develop a support system and find out about treatments that others have tried and found successful.