Cooperation key to good health care

Imagine a visit to a health care professional. What might a conversation with your doctor sound like? Does this sound familiar?

Doctor: “So, how are you today?”

Patient: “Oh, fine.”

Doctor: “What seems to be the problem?”

Patient: “Oh, nothing much. Just a little cold.”

Doctor: “Any fever?”

Patient: “Well, I didn’t take my temperature.”

This patient obviously isn’t offering the doctor much in the way of concrete information regarding his illness. If the patient is fine, what is he doing at the doctor’s office? Is it really just a little cold—or are there other symptoms such as nasal mucous, sharp chest pain or a rash the doctor should know about? Like many typical Americans, you probably spend less time preparing for conversations with your health care professionals than you do preparing for conversations with car salesmen.

During your first appointment with the doctor you can expect to have a detailed medical history taken. Matters discussed will be your physical and mental well-being, as well as your family’s. It is your responsibility to bring up any pertinent personal information, such as what medications you are on, what surgeries you’ve had in the past, any allergies you have, your lifestyle habits, the history of your current condition, illness, or injury, and so forth. Do not hesitate to bring lists of information and questions to your visit. Remember, while you expect the doctor to be a willing, effective communicator, it takes two people to truly communicate. You must also be willing to give the doctor whatever information he needs to accurately assess your condition.

If there is any doubt as to what the doctor is telling you, clarify the situation. Ask the doctor questions. For example: “What caused this illness?” “Are there other resources on campus or in DeKalb which could be useful to me?” “Are there any side effects to this medication or any foods that should be avoided when taking this medication?” Furthermore, request a second opinion and research your condition to generate further knowledge and questions for which you need to seek answers.

A good health care professional is someone who listens well and explains clearly and understandably, who is willing to give you his time and expertise, who encourages you to seek more information regarding his diagnosis and proposed treatment before you consent to them, and who is concerned not only with the treatment of illness but with prevention as well. If the professional you have chosen is not meeting these criteria, choose another practitioner.

It would be wise to keep detailed records of your health history, data on your chosen health professionals, lists of medications you take regularly or treatments you follow, medical bills and receipts, and any health insurance information. It is difficult to remember important information from one appointment to the next, much less from one year to the next.

Regarding your medical care at the University Health Service, a few tips may get you more cost-effective care: if possible, schedule an appointment in advance; bring an NIU ID; don’t use the emergency room for conditions that can wait until normal hours (8am to 4:30pm); have your health history on file at the UHS; and have prescriptions which have been written by UHS physicians filled at the UHS pharmacy at low cost.

Additionally, while the vast majority of students are satisfied with their care, in every good health care system there may be occasional problems and dissatisfied consumers. If you feel you could be receiving better health care at UHS, first discuss the problem with your doctor. Any further concerns could be deposited in the comment box in the first floor UHS waiting room, addressed to the UHS director or taken to the Student Health Advisory Committee, which is located in the UHS.