Thursday, January 4, 2018

One of the most dangerous things that we do in a doctor's visit

After having talked to multiple people, listening to stories over the years about people going to see their doctor, I realized that there is something crucially wrong about how we approach seeing a doctor. In fact, there is something that many people are doing - probably without realizing - that is extremely dangerous to their own health.

What is this crazy thing I'm talking about? Neglecting to provide information. I have a spot on my intake forms that asks for all previous diagnoses and medical conditions. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I spend roughly 90 minutes with my patients on a first visit and I try to get as much information from them as possible about their health and lifestyle.

What I noticed was that most patients left this area blank. However, when I asked the right questions, I got a lot more information than a patient originally disclosed - important information that I would have otherwise been blind to. Patients lie all the time. Sometimes on purpose, but often without even realizing it.

It's easy to do. We forget about things. Or we minimize them, thinking that some small detail doesn't matter.

When we withhold information from healthcare practitioners, we interfere with them making the best and safest choice for our personal health care. This includes occupation, recent travels, if you smoke or do drugs, your FULL past medical history. Even something as small as a bug bite can have huge implications.

You might not think it's relevant that you had a concussion 10 years ago, or that you had a UTI last week that has since cleared up, but to a clinician, it can make the difference in your treatment plan. That concussion from a head injury could have led to pituitary dysfunction, messing up your hormones. Or that UTI could have been caused by sexual practices that leave you susceptible to other vaginal infections like yeast or bacterial vaginosis.

I talk about this being dangerous because it is. There are some medical conditions and lifestyles that if unknown to your doctor, could leave you with a treatment plan that can do more harm than help. Getting swelling in your legs and you didn't tell your doc that you're a flight attendant? Being prescribed a heartburn medication but forgot to tell your doc that you're a vegetarian and your B12 is already abnormally low? Heartburn meds like proton-pump inhibitors can cause a B12 deficiency. Being a flight attendant with lower leg swelling may require compression stockings at work instead of just taking a water pill/diuretic.  All of these things matter.

We need to stop being afraid of being judged. If you feel put down by your doctor, judged by them, or if they make a comment to you that makes you uncomfortable, you have every right to say something and either mend the relationship, leave and find another doctor, or report them to their regulatory college. Not all health care workers are created equally. I highly suggest finding the right health care practitioners for you, so that you can feel safe enough to disclose your personal information to them.

This is also one of the driving factors of offering complementary 15-minute consultations in my office. I think it's a fantastic idea to go "shopping" for an ND. Meet with them, see if they can help you with what your looking for. Get to know their personality, ask about their education or their other experiences. And then go with your gut. Build a relationship with your health care provider so that you feel comfortable disclosing your personal information so you can get the best care - the care that you deserve!