Figuring Out How to Involve Patients in Their Health Diagnosis

September 23, 2014
Senior Patient Control

Should Patients Have More Control Over their Medical Care?

Most of us stand in awe of our doctor. He peers into our ears, listens to our heartbeat, shines lights into our eyes, asks us a few questions, and somehow knows what is going on inside our body. We watch him do all this with the anxiousness of someone watching a mechanic check out their car’s engine, a machine that is a complete mystery to its owner. When the doctor hands us his diagnosis and a prescription, it barely crosses our mind to question whether he’s positive he has come up with the right answer.

Others are not quite as ready to accept a diagnosis on faith. They would like to see the data their doctor used, even if they are not able to interpret it as skillfully. They may even seek a second doctor’s opinion as a matter of course. There is a growing movement in favor of increasing patients’ control over their own medical information, especially with the Internet’s ability to provide vast amounts of medical knowledge.

Asking Doctors to Share Records

Seniors and their family members are accustomed to only seeing the back of their medical records. We are usually content with that situation, but when there is a mistake in diagnosis or prescription, we wish that we had been able to see those medical records and question the erroneous information. There is actually quite a bit of confusion over just who owns patient records—the patient or the doctor? Some states (including California) specify that records belong to medical practices, not the patients, even though the information in those records concerns the patients’ health.

Dangers of Increased Patient Involvement

Smartphone technology promises a number of patient conveniences, including the potential for testing hearing, eyesight, and even blood tests using specialized equipment. Many people like the idea of avoiding visits to the doctor’s office, but doctors worry about whether patients will be capable of reliably testing themselves without a professional guiding the process.

Placing more control in the hands of senior patients brings up an obvious and serious issue: can a person with no education in the medical field really be trusted to have a large role in the decision-making process, even about his own health? If the patient is elderly, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease could make the situation even more dire.

Health Assistance at Home

In-home caregivers help their senior clients stay as healthy as possible, reducing the likelihood that illness or injury will send them to the doctor or even the hospital. Giving patients more say in the health care process may or may not be a good thing, but healthy meals, human companionship, and light exercise are always a solid prescription. Contact us if a compassionate caregiver is “just what the doctor ordered” for your senior loved one.

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