TO HAVE AS MUCH INFORMATION
AS YOU WISH ABOUT THE ILLNESS.
You see the doctor in order to gain an
understanding of your health. It is a service you
pay for. You have the right to know your diagnosis,
prognosis, about alternate forms of treatment, what
your doctor recommends and why he believes his
recommendations are the best course of action. If
you continue to have problems with your health and a
diagnosis has not been reached, you should have an
explanation of why not. Also, if further tests are
needed they should be explained to you. It *your*
body and *your* health that are at stake here. You
wouldn't take your car in to a mechanic and let him
begin tinkering around in the engine without telling
you what he was doing and why first. You shouldn't
allow a doctor to do the equivalent with your body
without being informed of what's going on.
TO BE ALLOWED ENOUGH TIME
FOR QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS ABOUT PROBLEMS.
When we first hear our diagnosis or have new
medical terms thrown at us, we are often taken off
guard. We tend to forget some of the information we
are told, or don't think of the questions we want to
ask until later. You should have an opportunity both
at the initial visit and at subsequent times to
discuss your problems. It is helpful to write your
questions down as you think of them, and take them
with you to refer to, and as a reminder, on your
TO HAVE REASONABLE ACCESS TO
You and your doctor should agree on what you
consider "reasonable access" in advance.
Your idea of what constitutes reasonable access may
widely differ from his. If so, you may be able to
reach a compromise. If not, it's good to find this
out early so that you can find another doctor.
TO PARTICIPATE IN MAJOR
DECISIONS IN YOUR CARE.
Participation is not only the right but also the
responsibility of the patient. It is important to be
well educated about your illness and you must ask
questions so your decisions are as informed as
possible. You and your family are the main persons
affected by your illness, not your doctor.
KNOW YOUR DOCTOR'S NONOFFICE-HOUR
AVAILABILITY AND PROVISIONS FOR COVERAGE OF PATIENTS
DURING THOSE TIMES.
Emergencies, accidents, and crises don't always
occur during office hours. Who is available to cover
for your own doctor during nights, weekends, and
holidays? It is a good idea to meet the covering
doctors so you can decide whether you can work with
them. If there are special conditions, treatments,
adverse reactions, preferences, be sure to have your
own doctor write them clearly in your chart so that
the covering doctor can refer to them. Remember the
substitute may be your doctor during your most
vulnerable and neediest times.
DETERMINE WHO OTHER THAN THE
DOCTOR SHALL HAVE ACCESS TO INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR
The relationship of the physician and the
patient is confidential. Normally you will be asked
to sign a release form authorizing your files to be
released to your insurance companies, or in special
instances to compensation boards, or other
physicians. In some cases where a disease is
infectious or otherwise might affect the health of
others (e.g. hepatitis), the doctor is legally
obligated to report the condition to governmental
KNOW IN ADVANCE THE
APPROXIMATE AMOUNT OF CHARGES AND POSSIBLE
ARRANGEMENTS FOR PAYMENT.
It is necessary to determine if you can afford
the charges and to find out if your insurance will
cover them. It is *not* poor taste to ask about
charges in advance. If you cannot afford the
charges, ask your doctor if they will work out a
sliding scale based on your ability to pay (many
will). Determine *exactly* what the charges include,
and whether things such as laboratory tests and
x-rays are included in them. Also, check in
*advance* what your insurance will cover as well as
the amount of the deductible.
BE SEEN WITHIN A REASONABLE
TIME OF THE SCHEDULED APPOINTMENT.
Sometimes unexpected problems and emergencies
come up with other patients that may cause a delay
in your appointment time. These situations can't be
helped and aren't the doctor's fault. A half-hour
wait probably isn't unreasonable as long as you are
informed of the delay. If your doctor is chronically
late you should decide if this is just too much of a
waste of time or annoyance to you, and if so, choose
another doctor who is able to keep his apointments
within a reasonable amount of time.
CHANGE PHYSICIANS IF A
BREAKDOWN IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP OCCURS AND HAVE YOUR
RECORDS TRANSFERRED TO YOUR NEW DOCTOR.
Sometimes things happen. As in any other relationship
there can be personality conflicts, or perhaps your
opinions on how your case should be treated just
don't agree. Or maybe the needed confidence just
isn't there. If this happens, do not allow it to
continue. Find another doctor who you can trust and
get along with.