Doctor's Appointments, Health Care and Your Rights!

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by: Christian Flint, MA, MCHt.

I never originally set out in my life to work in Healthcare in the various areas I have been employed and owned businesses.  When I was younger, I had my mind set on being a Medical Doctor or a NeuroPsychologist.  As I continued on in my educational fields, as well as life in general, I found that my interests and opportunities pulled me in different directions.  

One of my favorite times in my profession was when I was working as a Clinician.  I had a small office and saw patients on a referral basis.  One of my most valuable learning experiences was working with patients and learning more about how patients "think".  You see, I had always been the "patient" before.  Sitting on the other side of the desk or in the "Clinician's Chair" was a change of thought and responsibility, of course.  

Also, in doing my internships in Clinics, Crisis Centers and Counseling Centers, gave me a new perspective in how the patient "thinks" about their care.  Alas, many of you that know me know that I also studied and have practiced Law professionally.  And, of course, I began to integrate what I know about "patient rights" into my practice, and also educating my patients / clients over the years.

Why I tell you this, is that I was ever so surprised to view how patients so often follow their doctor's orders to the letter, and often without question or concern.  And certainly, for most patients, "Doctor's know best."  But, from a human rights and Best Care Practices perspective, I began to notice that so few patients knew their rights to be further educated on their exams, medications, procedures, surgeries and doctor's orders.  This is the basis for the "Second Opinion" practice that became popular in the 70's and 80's.  

Your body and mind are incredibly valuable.  Your healthcare directly impacts both.  So, taking your healthcare seriously is vital.  Doctor's often DO know best, and what is right for us, at the moment.  But, it never hurts to educate yourself on your rights, as well as the best precautions for your Mind and Body.  

Many of you have been waiting on the book I promised, where I will be explaining more in depth your legal rights, and best practices for your healthcare.  But, in this particular blog, I want to give you a few pointers on what you are allowed (and encouraged) to do regularly.  

For instance, realize you most certainly have the right to question your doctor, any time he / she recommends and prescribes a medication for you.  Ask questions.  "Is this really necessary?", "How long will I need to take this medication?", "Are there any side-effects?" (Also, ask your Pharmacist, as they often know more about your specific medications and interactions with other medications than your Medical Doctor.) "How might this affect me while I am taking (.x.y.z.) medication along with it?".  And, as always, tell your Doctor if you are on any other prescription medications from other doctors you might be seeing.  This is vital!

Whenever you are presented with a new medication, you have the right to ask questions about that medication.  You need to be informed.  Also, you can refuse medication.  If you feel it is not right for you, then get a second opinion.  Read up more on that medication that your doctor is recommending before you agree to take it.  Realizing, whatever you put into your body is up to you.  You OWN your body, and YOU make the decisions. 

Also, if you are married or have other family that helps you with your health care needs, ask them to also read and consider the medication(s) along with you. Make well-informed decisions.  Remember, most all medications are chemicals that you are introducing to your body.  Consider also, that sometimes the side-effects can be more of a nuisance than the condition you are being prescribed medication.  So, consider the side-effects once you have decided to begin taking the medication.  If the side-effects are too much, you can ask to change medications to find one that does not produce the same problematic side-effects.  If you are in need of medications ongoing, you and your doctor can experiment around with these medications until you get the right mix that is tolerable for you, as well as producing the best results.

All of the above also applies to surgery and procedures.  Do not allow yourself to be rushed or bullied into health procedures or surgery that you feel wary about or feel uncomfortable or uninformed.  Doctors do procedures and surgeries regularly, and they often forget to comfort and explain these procedures and surgeries properly.  

You have the right to ask about the process of each and every procedure and surgery you are asked to consider.  Ask questions, until you feel you understand completely.  Also, involve your spouse and family if the surgery or procedure is very involved.  Sometimes in our moments of stress and illness, we are not thinking clearly.  It helps to have others around us that can listen and understand.  Remember, this is about YOU, not your doctor or the hospital.  You have a legal right to know everything you are asked to participate in, as well as the right to refuse if you are not completely comfortable.

It was not until I had been working as a Clinician for a number of years, then I became a patient again for a minor healthcare issue, did I spend my time in the hospital truly realizing how involved many of these decisions can be.  I also realized how overwhelming it can be for those who do not understand the medical terminology and processes.  Often, we can feel afraid to ask questions as we might feel embarrassed or intimidated by the doctors and staff.  

Relax.  It is okay to ask questions.  As someone who has spent months of my life in the hospital setting, as well as being a Clinician, I can tell you that Health Care Practitioners receive much training in how to explain health care, surgery and hospital procedures to patients.  If they are not the one doing the procedure or operation, you also have the right to speak to the person that will be doing the procedure.

For instance, if you are going to be having a surgery, you may be only considering your Doctor playing the lead role.  But, your Anesthesiologist will be working very closely with you also during the operation.  Ask to speak with them and get to know them until you are comfortable.  Ask them questions, as you have a right to know about the process of anesthesia and how you might be affected during the operation and when you wake up. Take advantage of that right. That is part of what you will be billed for.  And, whether you are paying or the insurance is paying, you are still the patient, and you have all of these legal rights due to you.

The Bottom Line is:  Take your healthcare seriously.  Do not allow yourself to be bullied, pushed or intimidated by a Hospital, a Doctor or a Health Care worker.  You have the right to have everything explained to you until you understand.  Do not feel embarrassed or threatened.  Health Care today can be so bureaucratic and procedural that the patient can often feel like a number and of no real consequence.  

Stand up for your rights.  Stand up for your own Personal Health.  Realize, that the more you learn about your own personal health: body, mind and spirit is a true investment in your life now and for your future.  Take Pride in that, and Take Care Always.

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Christian Flint has degrees in Mental Health, Marriage and Family Counseling and Law.  He has worked as a Legal / Medical Consultant for the State of Florida.  And, he has been a Clinician in Private Practice.  Mr. Flint lectures and teaches on Patient Care and Patient Rights, as well as being a Certified HIPAA Trainer.  Mr. Flint also is the Director of Mind Design Unlimited.  He is also Director and Lead Consultant in the Surgical Patient Support Program and the Cancer Patient Support Program here in North America.

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