If you have COPD it is especially important for you to have the right physician. As with any chronic health condition, you will, hopefully, be working with your doctor for a long period of time. So, how do you find the right doc for you?
"Jane, if one of your patients just told you what you told me, what would you suggest they do?"
She had me. My best friend, a nurse, had turned the tables on me as only a close, caring friend can - and should - do.
I said nothing.
"Well?" She asked again.
I looked down and quietly said, "I guess I need to find a new doc."
At the time, I was having symptoms - serious clinical symptoms - related to a significant family history of cardiovascular disease. In spite of the questions and concerns I voiced, my long time physician was not recognizing nor treating these symptoms. Frankly, he just didn't seem to get it. I was feeling more and more misunderstood, and to put it bluntly, disregarded.
It was time for a change. First and foremost, I needed the proper diagnosis. Next, I needed the right medications and treatment. Finally, I needed my feelings to be validated and respected. I needed a doctor who was not only expert in the treatment of my symptoms and would partner with me in helping me alleviate them and stay well, but someone I felt comfortable with - a doctor who showed me respect and understanding.
Although I didn't have chronic lung disease I was experiencing some of what most patients do at one time or another, feelings of frustration and confusion with their own physician. In a doctor / patient relationship, this is bound to occur from time to time, and it doesn't mean you should quit your doctor right then and there and look for someone new. Long time relationships of any kind ebb and flow with good times and bad. But, if you really feel you should be doing better, you owe it to yourself to ask, "Is this really the best doctor for me?"
If you're wondering if you've got the best physician for you, take a few minutes to ask yourself the following questions:
1.) Does your doctor listen carefully to you, your symptoms, and family history before giving a diagnosis? Correctly diagnosing pulmonary disease is an important start in treating it. If you are in your 20's, 30's, or 40's and have COPD, has your doctor tested you for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency? (Many people who have Alpha-1 have seen up to seven doctors before being correctly diagnosed) We'll have more information on Alpha-1 in the near future.
2.) Have you had a lung function test? The Pulmonary Function Screen is a quick and simple and test in which you blow into a machine that measures how much air you blow out and how fast. Depending on the results of this test, your doctor may want a more detailed test, the Pulmonary Function Complete, which tells a lot more about how your lungs are working.
3.) Does your doctor encourage you to take an active role in the management of your lung health? Is he or she willing to be your partner in helping you breathe better and live as well as possible? Does your doctor give you the chance to ask questions, show you respect, and then take the time to answer you?
4.) Does he or she know about the latest in approved treatments and breathing medications and their side effects? If there is a new medication or treatment you've heard or read about, is your doctor willing to talk with you about its benefits and drawbacks? ("Miracle" treatments you hear about might just be a scam, but your doctor should briefly take the time to explain why.)
5.) Does your doctor recognize the value of Pulmonary Rehabilitation in the treatment of lung disease? To find a pulmonary rehab program in your area, click here and choose your state. http://www.aacvpr.org/resources/search_program.cfm If you can't find a pulmonary rehab program here, call your local hospital and ask about it. They might have a program that is not yet associated with the AACVPR.
6.) Does your doctor realize that there is more to pulmonary disease management than sitting at home because "it is only going to get worse?" Even with limitations, there is hope for a full life with chronic lung disease. Don't let anybody hand you a death sentence!
7.) If you've done all your doctor says can be done and you are still struggling and wondering if you are getting the best treatment, is your doctor willing to consider referring you to a university medical center, or at least discuss that option with you?
For help with this, you can contact the nearest office of:
- The American Lung Association, http://www.lungusa.org/ or,
- The "Lung Line" of the National Jewish Medical Research Center that specializes in the treatment of lung disease. 1-800-222-LUNG. http://www.njc.org
If you answered, "Yes" to these questions, you're on the right track. If you answered "no" to any of them, think about looking for a new doctor. Remember, you're the customer and you hire your doctor. If you need advice, talk with a respiratory therapist or nurse who works with lung patients and ask that person who they'd recommend their loved one go to with a breathing problem.
Finally, remember that you must always do your part in complying with what your doctor tells you to do. The best doctor in the world cannot help you if you refuse to follow instructions or take medicines and treatments as directed.
I hope this helps. Next time we'll talk about getting the most out of your visit with your physician.