How To Help Your Patient Help You In Your Diagnosis

by Tera Tuten on August 3, 2010

Don – a man in his 60s – couldn’t get through the night without waking up with chronic bleeding and extreme pain from a venous ulcer…until his wife researched and made contact with a wound specialist online. Identifying Don’s problem with the help of his wife’s pages of website printouts in-tow, the specialist switched Don’s meds and changed the way pressure was put on the wound. That same day, Don’s pain went away and he began healing rapidly.

Patients Aiding in Diagnosis

Involving patients in the diagnosis process is usually a win-win situation: Tests and observation are critically important but taking-in how a patient actually feels can help medical professionals nail it early-on. Patients know their bodies and lifestyles, and insights into their daily lives are invaluable in diagnosing their ailments.

Patients who take it upon themselves to actually research their own ailment and present their findings to their doctor will probably help a lot in a successful diagnosis. (At the very worst, it can’t hurt.) The key is guiding patients to find useful information.

Send your patients online

Doctors across America admit to using a slew of specialized sites but also resources as general as Wikipedia for drug background and effects/side-effects and Google for other diagnosis http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-415562/Doctors-using-Google-diagnose-illnesses.html

Why not put your patients to work to locate information you might not have time to track down yourself?

The patient-homework advantage

Patient-Homework Advantage

Rick, who was on medication for cancer that had spread from his kidneys to his lungs went from bad to worse in mere days. When Rick was hallucinating and at death’s door, his wife went online and educated herself, then asked her family doctor if Rick’s calcium levels were dangerously elevated. They were, and after a change in meds, Rick’s mind was clear and his body had a fighting chance.

Many doctors welcome a little insight from patients who have done their homework when it comes to what ails them.

Physicians we’ve talked to say that success really comes down to whether a patient can tell the difference between peer-reviewed articles and opinions on Yahoo Answers.

Resources to recommend

Resources to Recommend

An elderly man under physician care was in constant danger from falls due to fainting spells until his family researched his symptoms and succeeded with his doctor in finding out that the loss of consciousness was caused by skyrocketing potassium levels.

In the interest of encouraging similar instances of helping one’s doctor diagnose them successfully, here are some of the legitimate, accurate, easy-to-understand sites we and medical professionals recommend for patients looking to research their aliments:

http://www.webmd.com/
http://symptoms.wrongdiagnosis.com/
http://www.pubmed.gov (requires subscription)

Helping your patient help you

Helping Your Patient Help You

Patients who research their own ailments are better able to ask their doctors more productive questions, even if that question is “is it possible you haven’t thought of this?” Assuming the doctor’s ego is equal to this task, such collaborations can be hugely successful.

Two other sites we recommend, more for doctors to follow-up than for patients to self-diagnose:

http://www.epocrates.com
http://www.medscape.com/

Though most doctors train for more than a decade to be an expert in patient diagnosis, the time they can devote to assessing a condition is comparatively limited, given that patients concerned about their health can theoretically spend more of their day looking for information on their condition.

What do you think? Do you encourage your patients to do additional research to help in diagnosis? Is there any situation in which this would be a hindrance to your work?

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