1. TO HAVE AS MUCH INFORMATION AS YOU WISH
ABOUT THE ILLNESS.
You see the doctor in order to gain an understanding of your health. It is a service you pay for. You have the right to know your diagnosis, prognosis, about alternate forms of treatment, what your doctor recommends and why he believes his recommendations are the best course of action. If you continue to have problems with your health and a diagnosis has not been reached, you should have an explanation of why not. Also, if further tests are needed they should be explained to you. It *your* body and *your* health that are at stake here. You wouldn't take your car in to a mechanic and let him begin tinkering around in the engine without telling you what he was doing and why first. You shouldn't allow a doctor to do the equivalent with your body without being informed of what's going on.
2. TO BE ALLOWED ENOUGH TIME FOR QUESTIONS
AND CONCERNS ABOUT PROBLEMS.
When we first hear our diagnosis or have new medical terms thrown at us, we are often taken off guard. We tend to forget some of the information we are told, or don't think of the questions we want to ask until later. You should have an opportunity both at the initial visit and at subsequent times to discuss your problems. It is helpful to write your questions down as you think of them, and take them with you to refer to, and as a reminder, on your next visit.
3. TO HAVE REASONABLE ACCESS TO YOUR
You and your doctor should agree on what you consider "reasonable access" in advance. Your idea of what constitutes reasonable access may widely differ from his. If so, you may be able to reach a compromise. If not, it's good to find this out early so that you can find another doctor.
4. TO PARTICIPATE IN MAJOR DECISIONS IN YOUR
Participation is not only the right but also the responsibility of the patient. It is important to be well educated about your illness and you must ask questions so your decisions are as informed as possible. You and your family are the main persons affected by your illness, not your doctor.
5. KNOW YOUR DOCTOR'S NONOFFICE-HOUR
AVAILABILITY AND PROVISIONS FOR COVERAGE OF PATIENTS DURING THOSE
Emergencies, accidents, and crises don't always occur during office hours. Who is available to cover for your own doctor during nights, weekends, and holidays? It is a good idea to meet the covering doctors so you can decide whether you can work with them. If there are special conditions, treatments, adverse reactions, preferences, be sure to have your own doctor write them clearly in your chart so that the covering doctor can refer to them. Remember the substitute may be your doctor during your most vulnerable and neediest times.
6. DETERMINE WHO OTHER THAN THE DOCTOR SHALL
HAVE ACCESS TO INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR HEALTH.
The relationship of the physician and the patient is confidential. Normally you will be asked to sign a release form authorizing your files to be released to your insurance companies, or in special instances to compensation boards, or other physicians. In some cases where a disease is infectious or otherwise might affect the health of others (e.g. hepatitis), the doctor is legally obligated to report the condition to governmental authorities.
7. KNOW IN ADVANCE THE APPROXIMATE AMOUNT OF
CHARGES AND POSSIBLE ARRANGEMENTS FOR PAYMENT.
It is necessary to determine if you can afford the charges and to find out if your insurance will cover them. It is *not* poor taste to ask about charges in advance. If you cannot afford the charges, ask your doctor if they will work out a sliding scale based on your ability to pay (many will). Determine *exactly* what the charges include, and whether things such as laboratory tests and x-rays are included in them. Also, check in *advance* what your insurance will cover as well as the amount of the deductible.
8. BE SEEN WITHIN A REASONABLE TIME OF THE
Sometimes unexpected problems and emergencies come up with other patients that may cause a delay in your appointment time. These situations can't be helped and aren't the doctor's fault. A half-hour wait probably isn't unreasonable as long as you are informed of the delay. If your doctor is chronically late you should decide if this is just too much of a waste of time or annoyance to you, and if so, choose another doctor who is able to keep his apointments within a reasonable amount of time.
9. CHANGE PHYSICIANS IF A BREAKDOWN IN YOUR
RELATIONSHIP OCCURS AND HAVE YOUR RECORDS TRANSFERRED TO YOUR NEW
Sometimes things happen. As in any other relatonship there can be personality conflicts, or perhaps your opinions on how your case should be treated just don't agree. Or maybe the needed confidence just isn't there. If this happens, do not allow it to continue. Find another doctor who you can trust and get along with.
1. DISCLOSE ALL INFORMATION RELATING TO YOUR
ILLNESS TO THE DOCTOR.
If you withhold information, the doctor can't be expected to make an accurate diagnosis and begin proper treatment. Not telling him everything could even result in potentially dangerous therapy or tests. The information you give the doctor should be confidential and should not be used for any purpose other than to provide for your treatment.
2. KEEP OFFICE APPOINTMENTS OR CANCEL WELL IN
Just as it's unfair for your doctor not to keep his appointments promptly, it's unfair for you to be late or to just not show up. If you're going to be late, please call ahead and let them know. If you need to cancel, please try to do so 24 hours in advance so that someone else will be able to make an appointment in your place.
3. PLAN YOUR VISIT WITH THE DOCTOR.
Think about and write down any questions you may have in advance so that you can refer to them during your visit. Think about your symptoms carefully, so that you can give informed answers to the doctor's questions.
4. STOP THE DOCTOR WHEN YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND
WHAT HE IS EXPLAINING AND ASK FOR A SIMPLER EXPLANATION.
The doctor won't know you don't understand unless you tell him. He won't think you're stupid if you ask him for clarification, and will probably appreciate the fact that you want to be informed about your health. Doctors are used to thinking in obscure medical terms, and tend to forget that not everyone knows what they are talking about. It's okay to slow him down and get the information in terms you understand.
5. ASK QUESTIONS.
This is both a right and a responsibility. You need to ask the questions you want answers to. The doctor can't read your mind.
6. FOLLOW THE DOCTOR'S ADVICE AND REPORT
QUICKLY ANY ADVERSE EFFECTS OF THERAPY, COMPLICATIONS FROM TESTS,
OR WORSENING SYMPTOMS.
If you aren't going to follow the doctor's advice, why are you seeing him in the first place? If you disagree with the treatment suggested, you should discuss this with the doctor, rather than just going home and not following his advice. If there are problems with the treatment, the doctor needs to be informed so that changes can be made.
7. LIMIT PHONE CALLS BETWEEN VISITS TO
PROBLEMS WITH ADVERSE EFFECTS OF THERAPY, COMPLICATONS, OR
WORSENING SYMPTOMS, OR OTHER MATTERS WHICH YOU HAVE AGREED ON IN
It's important to keep the doctor informed of problems with your treatment. It's also important not to "bug" him. Often doctors will wait several hours to return nonemergency calls so as not to interrupt ward rounds, patient visits, and so on. Don't be too impatient if the secretary has taken a message; the doctor will get it and return your call. If the doctor does *not* return your call at all, then you have every right to be upset about it and need to discuss your concerns about this with them.
8. PAY AGREED-UPON CHARGES PROMPTLY OR IN A
WAY MUTUALLY ACCEPTABLE TO BOTH PARTIES.
Just as you are obtaining a service from your doctor, he has the right to expect payment from you or your insurance company. Make arrangements for payment before your visit. If your response to treatment is less than you expected, or if you are not "cured", it should not be taken out on the doctor by not paying him.
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