What are your responsibilities as a patient - to ensure a better doctor-patient relationship?
First, become a well-informed consumer. Make sure your doctor has experience diagnosing and treating CFS. In the final analysis, the person in charge of your care is not your doctor. It's you. If you believe your current doctor does not have much experience in the treating CFS, do some research. Join a CFS support group and ask other patients for recommendations. Shop carefully for your physician and any other experts involved in your care.
Determine up front what your treatments will cost. It may seem a little “cheap” to ask your doctor about his or her charges but you need to know what your costs will be, especially if you do not have insurance or if you have high copays. If you feel the costs are too high, don't be afraid to comparison shop other doctors. After all, it's your money.
If your insurance does require copays, be sure to understand what these will be.
You should also put together a list of your medications and go over it with your pharmacist. Don't be afraid to comparison shop for your drugs, either. Again, if there are copays required, be sure you know what these will be.
If you feel you need extra time with your doctor for a specific appointment, request the time in advance and be prepared to pay for the extra time.
If you can't make an appointment – barring an emergency - call and cancel at least 24 hours in advance.
If it's your first visit with a new doctor, bring a complete list of your symptoms and concerns. Also, make a list of questions – so you won't forget something important. But don't come with 15 or 20 questions. Keep your list to those questions which are really important. You can ask more questions at your next appointment. Also, bring a complete list of any medications or supplements you are taking.
Be sure to file all the records from any doctor you have seen. Organize them so that you can find the information easily as you will most likely need to access it for reference at some point.
When you want information about your treatment, prognosis or medications, ask clear, specific questions. Listen carefully to the answers and take notes. Be sure you understand the answers. Information that seems clear and understandable at the time, may be difficult to remember later. So, you might want to bring someone with you to take notes and help remember or clarify information.
It is your body and your illness. Don't be afraid to be assertive about your needs and concerns. If you have a complaint about your care or about the way you're being treated, tell your doctor in a straightforward manner. Don't just complain. Make direct, reasonable requests. Treat your relationship with your doctor as an adult-to-adult relationship and not as a parent-to-child relationship.
Remember that medicine is both a science and an art and that your treatment plan is based on both objective and subjective information. Don't be disappointed if your doctor does not have some single therapy or medication that will quickly make you feel better. Be realistic and do not expect miracles. You have is a complex, long-term illness for which there is no fast or easy answer.
Finally, always be honest with your doctor. Don't say you're feeling better just to please your doctor if you really aren't feeling better. On the other hand, if you're pleased with your treatment and your prognosis, be sure to let your doctor know. He or she is human and will appreciate hearing that you are pleased with your care.
Douglas Hanna is the editor and publisher of the web site, http://www.chronic-fatigue-advisor.com He is also an expert author who has written more than 125 articles on a variety of subjects, including health, personal financies and the new technology HD Radio.