Healthcare Consumers

Lynne Taetzsch Health Guide
  • Last night I went to my bipolar support group, and as usual, some interesting insights came out of it. Everything we say in our meetings is confidential, so I would never report the details of a specific person’s problem or situation. But when useful information comes up, that’s what I share. And when I use examples to illustrate a point, I change the details so that they no longer match the original speaker.

    We were talking about psychiatrists, and there were plenty of complaints—everything from a total distrust of the entire profession, to a begrudging acceptance of the necessary part they play in our health. Yet most of us had eventually found a doctor we could work with, even if it took several tries. That’s when one astute member said that he finally realized it was his job to find a doctor that worked for him.
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    That remark really struck me, because I think we forget that we are consumers of our own health care, and responsible for getting what we need. If we don’t like a grocery store, a car dealer, or a lawyer, we find another one, don’t we? Yet I think too often we are passive in the receipt of our own health care. This is a shame, because good health care is so critical to our well-being.

    Part of the “fit” is communication. We need to feel comfortable telling our doctors what is happening in our lives, and how our medication is affecting us. We want them to take our complaints seriously and to trust what we are telling them. One member complained, for example, that as soon as she told her doctor she was feeling “good,” he cut back on her anti-depressants, and now she feels lousy again. Was this doctor simply over-zealous regarding a potential manic episode? Or was the problem one of communication?

    Whether you’re looking for a doctor to prescribe medication, or a talk therapist to work on some issues, you may need to shop around just as you would for any other consumer goods. Start by asking for recommendations from your family doctor or other members of your support group. Whenever anyone in our group recommends a doctor highly, there is always someone whipping out their pen to write down the name. Sharing such priceless information is one of the benefits of a group, after all.

    Find a doctor or hospital, or share your recommendations.
Published On: July 18, 2006