Do Chronic Patients Count as Obnoxious Ones?
In CNN’s Empowered Patient series, correspondent Elizabeth Cohen examines how to stay informed, on top of your health, and in good communication with your doctors. The most recent installment is Are You an Obnoxious Patient? and the inflammatory headline aside, you should really go read it if you want this post to make any sense.
I won’t go into all the finer points since CNN’s hefty comments section is taking care of that just fine. Also, most of the article advocates mutual, respectful communication on both sides of the doctor-patient relationship, and who can argue with that? (Quite a few people, apparently, judging by those comments.) I imagine treating some of the more pushy, rude cyberchondriacs is just as tiresome as having an appointment with one of the more arrogant, unsympathetic doctors that ignore a patient’s input–even if it is well-researched and articulated–simply because of the lack of medical degree.
But I keep coming back to that first bit of advice:
“Don’t demand medications over the phone.”
Demand, no. But request?
That’s still okay, right? To ask?
One of the examples in this section is a patient who gets 3 or so sinus infections a year, recognizes the symptoms, and wants a prescription called in. But since symptoms of serious disease can mimic those of ordinary, less-threatening ones, doctors are reluctant to do this. (See: second example, kidney infection vs. cancer).
I think we need to make an important distinction here. Patients (or parents of patients) with chronic illness sometimes end up in the doctor’s office 3 or more times a month already. You asthma parents with young children know this. Like I did when AG was younger, you’re probably already spending a substantial chunk of money each month on appointments and prescriptions. You probably know the pediatrician and pediatric specialists very well, and they in turn know you, your parenting style, and your child’s symptoms thoroughly.
In fact, because you end up in the office so frequently, I’m sure you and the pediatrician have built up a pretty solid relationship of mutual respect and communication, so you know that sometimes new prescriptions don’t warrant a visit.
AG sees our small community’s most popular pediatrician who will occasionally call in a prescription without seeing her because having asthma means our pediatrician sees the kid all the time, anyway. This doctor knows and recognizes the symptoms of my daughter’s various non-critical asthma-related ailments, and she knows I recognize them, too. She knows the asthma itself is under control and further, she knows I will bring AG in if those little ailments worsen. Most importantly, though, our pediatrician recognizes that I don’t have unlimited time or money, and I already spend plenty of both at her office. In return, I ask rather than demand and I don’t argue or question her wisdom when I do need to bring AG in.
I’m lucky enough not to have a chronic health issue, but I’m betting those of you who do–or those of you with kids who do, like AG–have similar relationships with regular doctors, too. And for chronic patients or parents of chronic patients who stay involved, empowered, and informed, isn’t that how it should be?