Monday, August 13, 2012

More Imponderables

Medical professionals generally would like people to take better care of themselves, to take more responsibility for their own health.  You can’t take responsibility unless you know the facts of the situation, yet some doctors and hospitals continue to place obstacles in the paths of patients seeking access to their own medical information.  I understand that privacy concerns necessitate the signing of a waiver and I have no objection to showing a picture ID, but even then my request is sometimes denied.  When a patient has had blood work, the actual numbers should be shown to him or her.  Some doctors provide interpretations of the tests rather the results themselves.  I remember the letters I used to get from one doctor, IN ALL CAPS, like a bulletin from the front lines.  Sharing and discussing the facts encourages cooperation between medical personnel and patients and may help to prevent erroneous diagnoses and the unnecessary treatments that result from them.

Recent discoveries in genomics have opened up new worlds of complexity in the study of the human body and made it even clearer than before that each of us is unique.  In spite of this, medical institutions in this country persist in trying to standardize treatment for all individuals in a particular category.  Medicare, which pays for my drugs, would like me to get off Premarin, which I’ve taken for more than thirty years and get on Estradiol, a newer and less tested medication.  They would also like me to swap the Synthroid I take for hypothyroidism for a generic.  (I tried a generic once before and it didn’t work the same.)  If a patient doesn’t follow orders when using a prescribed treatment, doctors call it “non-compliance.”  What should we call it when institutions want to take patients off prescribed medications that they have used successfully for years?  

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