Taking Charge of Your Asthma Through More Effective Communication with Your Doctor

  • Let's face it... doctors today are extremely busy. You're lucky if you get 5 minutes of focused time with them on an office visit. I know there are exceptions, but that seems to be the general trend in today's world of scarce healthcare resources.


    So, doesn't it make sense to get the most out of every doctor's visit? Asthma is a very treatable condition, but you'll achieve the best control, quality of life and positive health status by taking charge of your asthma yourself, using your doctor as your expert consultant and guide.


    A couple of years ago, I covered this topic with 5 quick tips for better communication. They were, in a nutshell:

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    • Educate yourself about asthma & asthma treatment
    • Ask lots of questions, until you understand the answers
    • Work with your doctor to develop a detailed Asthma Action Plan
    • Keep good records about your asthma & share them with your doctor
    • Plan for your office visits & take notes during your talks with your doctor for reference later

    I'd like to talk about some of these points in a bit more detail now.


    How to Learn About Asthma


    The problem with educating yourself about asthma is knowing where to look. There is no shortage of information on the Internet, including health and disease information. But a lot of it is truly garbage, written simply to pull people off the so-called information highway and get them to click on ads or buy some product.


    So how do you find accurate asthma information? Well, there are a few ways. Of course, my first suggestion would be to stay right here on MyAsthmaCentral.com, a division of HealthCentral.com. Currently, there are 3 experts here contributing to the asthma information on a regular basis. There's me, of course; I'm both a registered nurse and an asthma sufferer. I've been writing about asthma for 10 years now and living with it my whole life.


    There's also Rick Frea, another asthma sufferer and a respiratory therapist. And lastly, there's James Thompson, a medical doctor (MD). Read any or all of our posts here and you are sure to learn just about everything you need to know about asthma.


    But if you want to venture further, then look for reputable health sites. My first suggestion is to stick with one of the National Institutes of Health sites, such as the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Both the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and the American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology (AAAAI) also have great consumer health education information.


    You can also search for websites from well-known healthcare institutions, such as the National Jewish Hospital, the American Lung Association or even state departments of health. If you're Googling, avoid the companies paying for the highlighted ads at the top of the screen. They're probably selling something, possibly misinformation.


    Asking Questions... and Getting Answers


    You also have to know how to get the info you need from your doctor... quickly. So first off, come prepared to each visit (or phone call) with a written list of specific questions. Don't let him or her get away until you have a chance to ask your questions.


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    But what if you don't know what to ask? Well, certainly you want to ask about any symptoms or pattern of symptoms that seems unusual or worrisome to you. It could be normal, but how will you know unless you ask?


    Also, you'll want to ask about any changes the doctor makes to your asthma treatment plan. Ask questions like, "How soon will it take for this to work?", "What effects should I expect from this change?" and "Are there side effects I might expect and should report?" Also, be sure you understand what you are to do and how to do it.


    If you don't understand anything the doctor or other healthcare staff tell you, then keep asking questions until you get answers you do understand. It is both your right and responsibility to do so. Sure, the doctor is busy, but he or she also wants you to take care of your asthma effectively, and that requires that you understand what you need to do.


    In Summary


    Don't be shy about taking charge of your asthma. You're the one who has to live in your body and with your treatment plan, so it's up to you to make sure that your health takes first priority. Your doctor is a treament expert, not a deity, so there is no reason why you can't work side by side with him or her towards a symptom-free life without restrictions.

Published On: May 27, 2011