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Dr Duncan

Questions that need to be asked

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Some years back patients started to appear in doctors’ surgeries clutching the “Dreaded List”. This was a list of the things that were worrying them - and some of these lists were seriously long! These lists occasionally became a real threat when produced at the end of a consultation with the deceptive introduction of “By the way Doc, there’s a couple of other things I’d like to talk about”! Such simple words morphed into a terrifying statement when you knew you were running ten minutes late already, and the waiting room was chock-a-block for the rest of the afternoon’s session.

With the appearance of the “Dreaded List”, it became necessary to stratify those concerns and create a structured approach to managing each of the issues, and to avoid the temptation to solve all the issues during the initial consultation. But even with a list and a structured Health Care Plan, there are still some questions that often get overlooked and yet could have a big impact on the individual’s health, and the overall wellbeing of the health care system:

1. Complementary Medications

A lot of people take complementary medications these days, but whenever we take this style of medicine we have to realize that these are a complex concoction of chemicals and there is the potential for interaction with prescribed medications - such as those for heart disease, diabetes, mood disorders etc. Most complementary medicines are benign, but the potential for problems is real, so please do tell your treating doctor what “extras” you are taking when they ask if you are taking any medications.  If the subject doesn’t come up, then ask your doctor whether they are safe to take and if they believe they are good for you. You could save your health and lots of dollars too! 

2. Vaccinations

Around the developed world, in various pockets in many countries there have been epidemics of infections that were thought to have come under control decades ago such as whooping cough, measles and influenza. This has been linked to a fall in vaccination rates in those particular areas. This decline in community immunization is linked to concern about the safety of vaccinations and the worry that they are associated with severe disabilities such as autism. To date the scientific community has failed to find such a link and all the responsible authorities have urged that parents follow the recommended vaccination schedules in their countries and get their children fully immunized against these, and other diseases. If you have any concerns about vaccinating your children then do ask an expert and not go straight to the internet or other urban sources of information. Ask your doctor!

3. Be honest about alcohol consumption

If you drink alcohol, be honest with your treating doctor when they ask you about the quantity you actually drink on a daily basis. Alcohol is a hidden health care menace that wreaks havoc in the broader community through motor vehicle accidents, domestic violence and  suicides: the costs to society in general being counted in the billions of dollars. On an individual level, heavy alcohol use is linked to a number of different cancers, to liver disease as well as damage to the brain and the heart - it is a seriously dangerous chemical. But in light usage - 2 standard drinks per day for men and 1 per day for women - it can have a mild heart health effect but in all likelihood, this effect is only beneficial for people over the age of 50. So when you see your Doctor, and they ask about alcohol consumption be  honest about how much you actually drink, as most people greatly under-report what they consume.

4. Is this test necessary?

A lot of people suffer from back pain and many of these go onto having imaging of their lower backs with CT scans and MRIs. These are expensive procedures which in the case of CT radiation are not without some slight risks. But in the vast majority of cases, these investigations are an expensive waste of time! For other conditions, there are tests that are sometime done “just to make sure” that something isn’t wrong and again, in the vast majority of cases it’s money down the drain. So when your Doc suggests organizing a test of any sort, do ask if it is necessary and what would happen if it wasn’t done. You might just see a smile of relief run across their face!

5. Ask a family member to come along

Never be afraid of asking someone - family member or friend - to accompany you to a health consultation as two brains will remember more than one.  Many patients can feel intimidated by the prospect of getting some “bad news” from the doctor.  If you are not 100% happy with the information that you have received from a doc, never be hesitant about asking for a second opinion. We in the medical profession know an awful lot about health, but we don’t know everything and every extra bit of brain power is always useful is helping us achieve a healthy outcome for you.

Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. For more articles by Dr. Duncan, click here. For more information on healthcare and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.


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