Recently I’ve been considering the power of going back to the basics and allowing your body to heal itself – The basics: Less coffee, alcohol, and processed foods, and more fruits, vegetables, water, and exercise. It is this unique approach that encourages me to address the root cause of a symptom rather than an isolated symptom. Here’s a good example of Symptom Management: Me “Hey doc, I sat on a tack.” Doc gives you script for pain med rather than suggest you remove the tack.
We’ve all been there: “you have this disease, you take this pill”. I have been thinking a lot about the influence of a conventional healthcare system built on symptom management and I’ve made some major changes to managing my health because of it.
By Pawyi Lee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The best way is for me to summarize using an old fable: “The Blind Men and the Elephant”. Wikipedia summarizes it better than I can- *credit wiki:)
“The story originated in the Indian subcontinent from where it has widely diffused. It is a story of a group of blind men (or men in the dark) who touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.” (One touches the ear and thinks it’s a rug, one touches the tail and thinks it’s a rope, etc…)
As a patient, this is what I often feel like at my doctor’s visits. I see over 15 different doctors with multiple specialties in multiple states and multiple parts of the country. I’m comfortable with the term ” bi-coastal” patient…lol.
Something Ive been doing for a long time is crafting a “patient agenda” prior to any new or what I feel is an extra important, doctor appointment. Sometimes it’s just on a notepad on my phone, but other times I print out copies for both the doc and myself. It helps to make sure I don’t forget anything important, and make sure I’m clearly stating what I’m looking to achieve out of our mutually valuable time. Ive started doing a new thing. I put the summary of the “Blind Man and the Elephant” fable as “goal 1:”. I ask them to read -fable only- to themselves before we begin. It’s only a few sentences, but it helps to set the tone; to remind the doctors to see me a a whole and not only in their one area of expertise. If they can’t see the elephant how can they appropriately treat me?
Now that i’ve just likened myself to an elephant, I’ll be signing off.
I’m attaching a patient agenda I just used for a visit to National Jewish Health in Colorado. It’s nothing fancy, I seriously typed it on the plane ride there. I removed some things and used general symptoms for my privacy.
*Sample of my last patient agenda click the link above to view the full document.
So when you start to feel like being a patient has turned into your full time job, It’s time to rethink how your managing your health. Or, are you managing your health at all? Are you being influenced by a conventional healthcare system built on symptom management? Your health deserves to be managed and no one’s going to knock on your door to do it.
Spend 10-15 minutes before big appointments thinking about and documenting these few things:
1) Set goals. Know what you want to get out of the meeting and more so, make sure you communicate it with your doctor.
3) Write down any notes you want to remember as “mentions” (i.e., changes in family history)
4) Finally , I always like to summarize both symptoms and their respective category so that the specialist dosen’t only see the symptoms of their specialty.