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Achieving exceptional care with patients as partners

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Posted: Monday, June 24, 2013 12:00 am

The column is part of a series running in conjunction with the Healthy Living Lecture Series hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


FAIRBANKS — In The Last Frontier, we’re known for our hardy, pioneering ways. This land draws people who understand how to survive and thrive despite challenges beyond our control — both by taking individual responsibility and by banning together to support each other.

Today, the medical world is advocating a similar philosophy: Patients thrive best when teamwork and personal responsibility are embraced — by both doctors and patients.

Patients are being seen more as empowered partners rather than passive receivers of care. After all, though doctors are experts in medicine, patients are experts in themselves.

On Tuesday, in the fourth segment of the Healthy Living Lecture Series, we’ll share tips for partnering with your doctor to achieve the best care.

You’ll learn how to get the best results from a still segmented health care system. Just one diagnosis might involve getting your blood drawn, having a study done and seeing a specialist — all in separate visits and often with the results stored in separate files.

Doctors need the patient’s voice to add perspective and help pull these pieces together. At the lecture, we’ll share the best ways to do that.

For example, here are six of the tips we’ll offer for your next doctor visit:

1. Prepare by gaining an understanding of your health conditions. Read up on them in reliable sources.

2. Bring an impeccable updated list of your medications, including all supplements. (It’s especially important to remember to update your list if you’re hospitalized because when you’re discharged, your medications are likely to change. Also, discard medicines you’re no longer taking to avoid future confusion.)

3. Communicate with your doctor. If you don’t feel the doctor is listening well or communicating clearly, consider finding another one.

“If the communication fails, you’re the one who suffers most,” writes “e-Patient Dave” deBronkart and Dr. Danny Sands in the popular e-book “Let Patients Help,” which we’ll be talking about during the lecture.

4. Take notes. (“Let Patients Help” also recommends requesting copies of your doctor’s notes.)

5. Repeat all instructions back to your physician, to make sure you understand them correctly. If you have trouble hearing, have a family member or friend accompany you to doctors’ appointments to ensure clarity.

At the UAF Healthy Living lecture, which is free, we’ll elaborate on these tips and others. For example, we’ll share the best ways to use the Internet for medical information, what you really want to bring to the doctor’s office, and strategies for asking meaningful questions. Please join us at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Murie Building Auditorium, at UAF.

Gena Edmiston, RN, MSN, CENP, is the chief nursing officer of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and Denali Center.

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