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Dr Duncan

Five things doctors wish you'd always remember

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It would be nice to think that there is a seamless communication between all parts of the medical profession and those things like wrong medications being given, different Doctors repeating the same investigations and the occasional headline-grabbing-disasters where the wrong operations were performed! But in such a vast a diverse system which we call the health care system, sadly, things can - and do - go wrong. Health professionals are currently working very hard on systems that will reduce the number of mistakes within their organizations, whilst at the same time attempting to protect the privacy of the individual - and this is a hugely complex task that has taken far longer to achieve than anyone originally anticipated.

But it’s not always the fault of the medical providers because very often, we the patients don’t always “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!”  Good health care depends on a high level of trust and the gathering of relevant information in order to maximize the health of the individual patient: and within all this there is always the potential for information to “slip through the gaps”. So here’s a list of things that I believe to be important information that you should be telling your Doctor when you attend an appointment. And it’s always good to remember what a car salesman told me once, “honesty is not the best policy, it’s the ONLY policy”! So be honest.

Medicines

When we think of medicines we commonly think of the last prescription that was given to us by our treating Doctor. But a great number of people with chronic health problems find themselves spending hours of their time sitting in various Specialist’s waiting rooms for treatment on their different ailments - and this often means many providers writing out many different prescriptions. And I was taught at medical school that if you give more than one medication, then there is an increasing risk of a drug “interaction” occurring which does not always lead to the desired, healthy outcome!

So keep a list of all the medications that you take (and try to source them from the same Pharmacists) and take it to each Doctors appointment. And PLEASE tell your Doctor if you’re not actually taking the medications they prescribed for you: these days medications cost a great deal of money and some find it hard to actually pay for them - but there is a “safety net” and your Doctor can help.

Also, “medications” can include eye drops, vitamins, complementary and herbal medications too, all of which have the potential to interact, just as any “chemicals” do. So please tell your Doctor(s) what other health supplements you consume.
 
Family History
“No man is an island” is a famous quote but sums up the fact that we all came from somewhere. What has happened to our parents, brothers and sisters can also happen to us, so if your father died in his 40’s of bowel cancer or your mother and aunts had breast cancer at an early age, then that could have significance for you as well. If there is a history of Diabetes, heart disease or eye problems - such as Glaucoma and Macula Degeneration - then this is important information for your Doctor to have so that relevant steps may be taken to reduce your risks of developing similar problems.

Smoking and Alcohol
Fewer and fewer people are smoking which is a magnificent tribute to those who have pushed the anti-smoking campaign for so many years and prevented so much unnecessary suffering. But there are still people who continue to take up the habit and they need to let their Doctors know that they smoke so that they  can become fully informed of the future impact on their own health, and take the necessary steps to quit! Alcohol presents an even greater challenge as it has been part of human story since the dawn of time, and yet over-indulgence can lead to terrible damage to individual health and have devastating social impacts too. When your Doctor asks how much you drink, be really honest and tell them the truth - there is no doubt that alcohol consumption is drastically under reported, and as a result, proper education on the safe use of alcohol is sadly lacking.

Allergies
Some people may say that they’re allergic to eggs or perhaps penicillin, but what they really mean is that eggs make them feel “yukky” and that when they were sick when they were a toddler and the Doctor “gave them an antibiotic and they got a rash.” If you think you suffer from an allergy then tell your Doc and they have the means of determining whether you are truly allergic or not, and if you are then they can teach you how to cope with your allergy and reduce any risks associated with that allergy. But allergies to medicines such as antibiotics and other drugs need to be properly assessed and taken very seriously. In these cases it is often wise to wear a Medic-Alert wrist band which lists your allergies in case of emergencies.

Travel
In the 21st Century we are a very mobile people and think nothing of going to Bali, Vietnam, Chile or Africa. But in these other countries there are infections and insects that carry diseases that are rarely seen in Australia. If you’ve been overseas and feel sick within a few weeks of your return, please tell your Doc! It’s almost certainly nothing serious, but if you don’t inform them, then you might never know!

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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