No, I’m not a doctor. Yes, I’ve spent years in doctor’s offices and hospitals both professionally and personally interacting with healthcare providers. Yet, it’s a far cry from the years of education and practical experience physicians gain to earn the title of doctor.
Why do I point this out? Precisely because there have been times when I’ve made errors understanding or misreading my own test results. It’s caused me unnecessary stress or at times, a false sense of relief. Either way I was perceiving information inaccurately. Although it’s always in every patient’s best interest to be a very well informed advocate for their own health, it’s also true we may not have the all the knowledge we need to reach the most fact based conclusions. Experience and that very important element, objectivity, are essential components of a reliable and accurate diagnosis. It’s most effectively reached with an excellent physician/medical professional on your team.
My own experiences are a good example. Having typed up innumerable radiology reports over the years, I assumed when I read my own x-ray results that began with the word “unremarkable,” I was fine. Most often “unremarkable” indicates all is well. I was wrong. Initially, the findings were thought to be normal, but when re-evaluated by two more physicians, the results indicated an abnormality. Had I read through the entire report that would have been obvious. I was so earnestly hoping for great test results, I chose not to read one word past unremarkable. Big mistake not reading the report completely. I assumed I knew more than I did.
And then the opposite happened. Reading a rather detailed and complex medical report I believed I had a health problem. It turned out I didn’t. Consequently, I worried about the results on and off for months. Would these results have an impact on my health requiring further medical intervention? And, what would be the outcome of these interventions, i.e., side effects, length of treatment and would these treatments actually work. Not until recently did my physician explain the results to me in their entirety. I had totally misintepreted the report. Felt like an idiot. What a total waste of energy worrying about something that never was. His expertise was what I needed to fully interpret my test results. I was simply unable to do so properly without him.
It’s true I’m not a doctor. But, what I can do is take the time to continually educate myself about my body, any health issues I have, be well prepared for my healthcare visits by writing down all my questions, remembering to ask all – not just part of my questions – without feeling intimidated and always being sure I really “get” the answers before I leave the office. The goal then is to be fully in sync – proactive patients working hand in hand with our medical care team. I’ve found it’s the best way to achieve optimum healthcare for my body and my mind. What could be more important.