Top 5 Ways to Team Up With Your Doctor for Better Health
One of the keys to asthma control is having a strong asthma management team. Asthma is a family disease, whether it's an adult or a child who has asthma. It doesn't just affect the person with the diagnosis of asthma. It also affects everyone around them.
So, having a team that includes family members, teachers, classmates and friends, as well as yourself, is critical. Take time to educate everyone about your asthma and how to help control your environment to be as healthy as possible.
In addition, you need to partner with your healthcare team to manage your asthma effectively. Most family doctors and pediatricians are pretty well-versed in asthma because it is such a common disease. But you may also need to include a respiratory specialist (pulmonologist) or allergy specialist (allergist/immunologist) as well, at least in the beginning.
Once you have your medical team in place, then you need to learn how to work well with them. It's a fact today that healthcare professionals face tremendous challenges in practicing their professions. Chances are, your doctor(s) have very little time to spend with you. So, it will behoove you to spend what time you do have with them as effectively as possible.
Here are some tips to help you with that:
1. Develop a detailed Asthma Action Plan. This is a standardized approach to managing asthma that represents a collaboration between doctor and patient. You can find explanations and examples of Asthma Action Plans both here at HealthCentral and elsewhere on the Web. An action plan specifies what is normal for you, what the signs of slipping asthma control are and what actions to take. If you follow your action plan, you should be able to act on asthma problems before they become serious.
2. Educate yourself about asthma. Don't rely on your doctor to be the only expert involved in your care. Learn everything you can about asthma by exploring reliable health websites (like HealthCentral.com) and reading books. The more you know, the more you can work on an equal footing with your doctor. Be informed about the healthcare decisions you are making. Don't just blindly follow your doctor's lead; you have the right and the responsibility to be proactive and involved.
3. Practice proactive communication. Keep good records about your asthma -- your symptoms, how you respond to treatment, side effects and related problems. Then pass relevant information along to your physician in a timely manner. Don't keep your doctor in the dark. It's not a good idea to save up all of this information for your office visits, unless you are going frequently. Your doctor may not have time to listen to everything. If you notice something that you think your doctor should know about in between visits, call. That allows you to get advice you can act on right then or at least for the information to become part of your record.
4. Ask lots of questions. This goes along with #2 above, in educating yourself. You need to understand why you are being asked to do things, take medicine, etc. You don't have to do it just because the doctor says so. Make informed decisions. If your doctor doesn't have time to answer all of your questions (though he or she should take the time), then ask another knowledgeable person, such as your pharmacist or the doctor's nurse.
5. Make the most of your office visits with the doctor. As I mentioned, doctors are busy these days. We don't have to like it, but we do have to adapt to it. So, a little preparation will go a long way. Think about what you'd like to accomplish at your visit before you go. Write down any questions you have. Take notes during the visit, too, so that you can remember what was decided and discussed when you get home.
When you use these methods to be a proactive, equal partner with your doctor, you'll be well on your way to having an effective and powerful asthma management team!