All Patients Should be Pro-Choice

Now that I’ve captured your attention, a bit of a disclaimer. I’m not about to blog about Roe vs Wade — no way — not a chance.

Today’s thoughts revolve around patients and their choice of doctors. Or their choice of treatment options. Or their choice of whether they want to choose. Or their choice of making no choice at all, which is a choice.

Whether or not you are good at making choices, it is still your right, or even more so, your responsibility to choose how your decisions will be made, when it comes to determining your healthy future or your medical outcomes.

Patients seem to fall into two camps. Some patients don’t want to have to think for themselves; they just want others to tell them what to do. So they visit convenient doctors, who tell them, “This is what you’ve got. This is the best way to treat it. Go home and do as you’re told, and come back to see me in 10 days to make sure it worked.” And they do. Default.

Other patients — the sharp ones, the ones who are masters of their own universes (thanks Jerry Seinfeld) — understand the patient’s responsibility to choose for himself.

They begin by choosing the right providers based on information they find online, talking to other patients, or the doctor’s reputation (if they can figure it out.)

Then, when they visit the right provider, they engage with him. If the doctor says, “This is what you’ve got,” then the sharp patient says, “What else could it be?” Then he goes home, logs on, looks up all the possibilities, and either concurs with the doctor’s assessment, or begins asking more questions. Together they choose the right diagnosis.

If the doctor says, “This is the best way to treat it,” then the sharp patient asks, “What are the other treatment options? I want to know about them all.” Then the patient considers the pros and cons of each and makes his OWN decision*. Yes, it’s wise to strongly consider the doctor’s recommendations — the doctor is the one with the medical education. But patients should be actively engaged in making their own choice.

If the doctor says, “Go home and do as you’re told and come back to see me in 10 days to make sure it worked,” then the sharp patient says, “Yes, Doctor, I will comply with the treatment — because we worked together to determine the right choice for me.” Then the patient WILL comply — because he knows that’s his best opportunity for healing from whatever problem he has.

The truth is that patients makes choices everyday — some make those choices passively and some make them actively.

Passive choices include: letting someone else tell you what to do, or failure to make a choice at all (which means you have chosen not to make a choice), or agreeing to do what you’ve been prescribed — and then just not doing it. None of these options is a responsible approach.

Active choices include: learning about the various diagnoses that fit your symptoms, then working with your provider to determine which one applies to you, studying the various treatment options available and working with your provider to fit the one that will fit your needs the best, then complying with the treatment regimen, knowing you and your provider determined it together to make sure you achieve your best outcomes.

I’m suggesting that all patients need to actively make choices to find their best outcomes.

Which kind of patient are you? And which patients do you think end up healthier?


*My next newspaper column, which gets emailed to my entire list, is focused on how to make those choices when they become difficult for you. If you’d like to get a copy of my column next Tuesday, Oct. 2, sign up here to receive it.

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Trisha Torrey
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