Prescription for Success

  • Continuing my "healthy" blog entries, I'd like to give you links to some great web sites I came across when I was trained as a health librarian three years ago. I'll close out with a new doctor checklist I created four years ago when I had to find a new psychiatrist. Use the web sites to arm yourself with info to take to your next visit with your healthcare provider. The checklist you can improvise with your own questions, based on what matters most to you in your treatment. Look for the list to be included in my self-help book, Life Will Tell You: On Living Well with Schizophrenia


    To start out, log onto any or all of the health Web sites:

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  has an A to Z directory of 740 topics on conditions, diseases and wellness; a directories link for finding doctors, dentists and hospitals; and a medical encyclopedia with illustrations, to name some of the information on the site. Written in plain English, it's a great start for research.



    This web site is like one-stop shopping for medication information, and it allows you to search by drug name. A useful feature is the pill identification wizard, where you type in a name and get a picture of the drug. The drug interactions link lets you type in more than one medication, and see if they interact with each other in a negative way. It also includes an A to Z directory of side effects. Though not a substitute for talking to your doctor or pharmacist, it's a good jumping-off point for initiating a dialogue.



    If you want to find out about clinical trials, log on to this site. I typed in "schizophrenia new york" and got numerous results that included details about the studies, and location and contact information, as well as inclusion and exclusion criteria. Like any web site ending in .gov, the U.S. government maintains this one.



    On this web site, I typed in thyroid as a search term, and found information about the test (why and when to get tested), a test sample (what is being collected and how it's being collected) and common questions, also with links to "understanding your tests" and "inside the lab." This should put your mind at ease before your doctor sends you for lab work. LabTestsOnline is a collaboration among professional societies representing the clinical laboratory community.



    Find a doctor's education, practice info, and legal actions. I clicked on the link to New York State's directory, and did a search on my psychiatrist, and it was a bit tricky, but eventually worked out. Specifying "psychiatry" brought up other doctors with the same last name, but when I broadened it to only his last name, he did show up. Play around with this site; you'll get some useful information, such as hospital privileges, languages spoken and health plans accepted.



    On this web site, search terms may be topics, authors or journals. I used the string "schizophrenia treatment outcomes" to find article abstracts that pointed me in the right direction. As a source locator, this can't be beat. PubMedCentral is a free digital archive of full-text journal articles archived by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. If you can't get what you want free, take the abstract to your local public library or medical library, and the reference librarian will help you find the full-text version in their archives or online databases. In New York City, the New York Academy of Medicine is open to the public. Your nearest city may also have such a library, or you may be able to get the information directly from the publisher's web site.


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    To close out this blog entry, I'll include a list of questions you could ask potential psychiatrists. When I first met my new doctor (I was referred by a friend), I must admit I didn't ask every single question, just the ones that were important to me. In the beginning of that intake, I told him in detail my psychiatric history, working backwards chronologically. After that, I asked the questions. You'll also want to be reflective and listen to what the doctor has to say, to see if he's on target and on the level.



    New Doctor Checklist:

    1. If I need to call you, will you return my call within 24 hours? Will you return my call sooner if I'm in a crisis? Do you have another doctor on-call if you're on vacation? If not, what should I do to get help?
    2. If I ask you questions, will you give me detailed information about why you think I need a certain treatment? I need to know the rationale behind your suggestions.
    3. What drugs do you frequently prescribe to your patients? Have you had success with these drugs? How much experience have you had with the new atypicals? Will you prescribe drugs "off-label" if you think it will benefit me?
    4. Will you discuss any side effects of the medication you're treating me with, and do you have a backup plan in case I do develop a side effect?
    5. Is your focus on mental illness treatment and recovery, or do you have a general clientele? Are you willing to be creative in custom-tailoring solutions to my treatment needs?
    6. If my parents or a third-party person needed to speak on my behalf or talk to you about my treatment, how would you handle that?
    7. What would a typical session with you be like?
    8. Do you have an area of expertise with certain illnesses?
    9. Where did you get your degree? Are you Board Certified? How long have you been in practice?
    10. What hospitals do you have admitting privileges with?
    11. Are you willing to coordinate my treatment with my primary care doctor or get the results of blood work or tests from this doctor to integrate my whole health care outlook?
    12. Do you have evening or morning hours?
    13. Do you test for tardive dyskinesia? Have you ever had a patient who developed this, and what has been your experience with treating TD?
    14. Most of all, do you believe recovery from schizophrenia is possible?
Published On: September 12, 2007