Managing Doctor-Patient Relationships and Creating a Healthcare Team, Part 1
For those of you who were born before the millennium, medical treatment, living with a chronic illness, and navigating medical insurance was a nightmare. If you were lucky to have an employer-based insurance policy for you and your family, employers often changed insurance providers on a yearly basis.
To make life more stressful, insurance providers had the right to deny coverage to people with pre-existing chronic illnesses, although a caveat was implemented during the Clinton administration. The most difficult aspect of living with a chronic illness in the 20th Century was that the average medical provider accepted only a handful of medical insurance providers. These impediments caused three problems. It resulted in frequent changes to benefits; it meant that a patient had to wait before being treated for a pre-existing condition, and it made it difficult to maintain a good doctor-patient relationship.
Lupus in the 1990s
I was diagnosed with lupus in 1990 at the age of 16. I was covered under my mother’s insurance policy and my father’s insurance policy as long as I was in school and 25 years old or younger. If my parents' employers switched to a new insurance provider, that usually meant finding a new doctor. Between 1990 and 1992, I saw 6 different rheumatologists. So managing the doctor-patient relationship was very difficult. I was too young to fully understand how insurance worked. I just understood these frequent changes as a life. A challenge I chose to change once I finished school.
Tips for building a healthcare team
Research and reviews
Finding the right doctor and medical team requires research. Research means reaching out to your local lupus group and lupus magazines. The research includes reviewing website polling such as HealthGrades, Vitals, Google, Yelp, to name a few. Research means speaking with other patients about their experiences. Research means looking at the directory of professional groups like the American College of Rheumatology, or the American Academy of Dermatology.
Interview a doctor
You may need to interview a doctor before establishing the doctor-patient relationship. Finding the right doctor requires a little bit of luck. You may receive a reference from another who has a good relationship, but your relationship with that same doctor may not work out. You must educate yourself about your condition. Begin to understand your labs, your symptoms, and the treatments. Ultimately, finding the right doctor means knowing yourself and being an advocate for your own health.
Establish a good doctor-patient relationship
Over the course of the next few articles, I will discuss how to establish a good doctor-patient relationship. I will also talk about the importance of creating a lupus healthcare team and the steps to ensure you have both. I will talk about the importance of listening and honesty. I will talk about the importance of treating the body as a whole. I will include a section on the importance of knowing the support staff of each doctor. I will talk about resources and the importance of advocacy. Most importantly, I will discuss the importance of knowing thy self and know thy doctor so that you build a good doctor-patient relationship.
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