Recent research done in Germany and reported in Deutsches Ã„rzteblatt International found that pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients wait an average of four to six months for an accurate diagnosis of their condition. While this may sound outrageous, the wait time here in the United States is not much better. While there are several different reasons for the lag time in diagnosis there are some things you can do to help your child get the proper treatment promptly.
Know your family history
If anyone in your family has had IBD or any autoimmune disease it is important that your physician knows. Sometimes family members may not discuss these issues because it can be embarrassing to talk about bowel habits. Broach the subject gently and let your family know that it is important to finding an accurate diagnosis for your child. Most people will get over the stigma to help your child feel better.
Journal symptoms concisely
Journaling symptoms is very important but how you journal them is equally important. Foods, activity, stress and severity of symptoms should be detailed if you want a quick diagnosis. For example, vague statements like “stomach cramps” doesn’t tell the same story as “cramps that had me doubled over and unable to function.”
Write down questions to ask your physician
Most patient advocates will tell you that the best way to get the most out of a visit with your doctor is to write a list of questions. This helps you to stay on task and lets the doctor know you need answers. If you have a lot of questions let the office staff know when you schedule the appointment so they can allot enough time for your visit.
Find a doc you can communicate well with
Personalities are different and there are some physicians you will be able to communicate with and some that may not be easy to talk to. It is really important that you feel able to communicate with your doctor and if you feel ignored, have your issues minimized or other similar problems, then it may be time to find a physician that is a better fit for you. Women are notorious for sticking with a doctor they don’t really like because they don’t want to hurt the doctor’s feelings. Remember, you are paying this physician, so interview them like any other employee. If they aren’t a fit then move on.
Be sure each physician has your complete medical record
Don’t assume that all of your medical records ended up where they should have. If you have an appointment with a specialist call the week ahead and make sure they recieved any pertinent records. This can save a lot of time in the long run and prevent repeating tests.
Be aware of any pre-approval needed by your insurance
Many insurance companies require pre-approval for certain procedures or tests. Make sure you are aware of the pre-approval and if you aren’t sure, ask. Sometimes the insurance will delay or refuse to pay for tests that were not pre-approved so it is to your advantage to make sure these issues are taken care of ahead of time.
Be aware of any pre-testing restrictions
There are some tests that require restrictions prior to the test. For example, my daughter had an upper GI and she had to refrain from eating after midnight the night before the test. If you show up having mistakenly eaten then you will have your test rescheduled which only further delays an accurate diagnosis.
Always ask if there are any other conditions that could be causing your symptoms
Sometimes we can get in tunnel vision with regard to a diagnosis. Asking your physician if there is anything else that would cause the same symptoms forces them to think about additional conditions and may help you get a faster diagnosis.
Don’t just bandaid symptoms
Often if the medications prescribed cover the symptoms we can delay the diagnosis even further. If you find you are frequently needing additional medications for “flare ups” or your current medications aren’t covering it, don’t tough it out. Let your physician know immediately so that they can search for additional causes and treatments.
Always have a “plan” for the next step
When we were going through this process with one of our children my last questions for the doctor were always, “How long do we give this treatment to work?” “If this does not work, what is our next step?” That way you have a timeline for each treatment and don’t waste precious time “waiting it out.”
Be proactive in your child’s treatment. With a few of these tips you may cut down the amount of time it takes to get the right diagnosis and the right treatment. The faster this occurs the less damage done to the intestine and the more quickly your child will feel better. Good luck
Jennifer has a bachelor’s degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER). ** See More Helpful Articles:**
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.