Knowledge Is Power

June 1, 2017

Looking for a new doctor, visiting a physician’s office or preparing for surgery can be overwhelming. It may be difficult to understand what a procedure entails and the care instructions involved, and sometimes, a diagnosis can make you nervous or upset. Still, it’s your body, and it is important for you to be an active participant in the health care process.

How can you help yourself?
Learning is a continuous process, and one of the best ways you can help yourself is by asking questions. Don’t say “yes” to a medication or procedure until you have all your questions answered, advises Hospital Medical Chair Rachel Lovins. “If you can’t get your questions answered, make another appointment to discuss them, or if you are in the Hospital, see if your doctor can come back later,” she says. “You have a right to be informed about medications and procedures.”

Lovins says it is helpful when a patient states their agendas at the beginning of their appointment instead of waiting to ask questions until the end when the provider might feel rushed or pressed for time.

What should you do if you feel your doctor is not listening?
Like everyone else, doctors get busy and stressed. They are frequently under serious time constraints that are beyond their control, and that’s why Lovins says it is worth giving a doctor the same benefit of the doubt that you would give a friend. Be calm, assume good intentions, make eye contact and state your feelings, she says. If a doctor doesn’t have time to address your concerns at that moment, consider scheduling additional time.

“When we are patients, we are so vulnerable, and I think sometimes our doctors need to be reminded that we feel that way,” Lovins says.

What does Middlesex do to educate patients?
The Hospital does its best to help educate patients on a variety of topics – from Hospital logistics to common symptoms of illness and treatment plans. It regularly updates its information-packed web site, It also gives all Hospital patients handbooks, which include a place for patients to write down their questions. The names of a patient’s doctors and nurses and their plans for the day are written on whiteboards in patient room, and hospitalists provide a brochure that explains the hospitalist program and includes pictures of the doctors. In addition, educational videos are shown on TVs to introduce patients to the Hospital and its facilities, and doctors and nurses thoroughly go over discharge plans with patients to make sure they understand.

The Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center is making an extra effort to provide patients with valuable health information – and in a new way. The center is using customized tablets to share information, hoping to increase patient engagement. Working with New York City-based PadInMotion, the Cancer Center’s tablets are loaded with educational videos, health tips and feedback forms and other Hospital information, and patients will use them while waiting for radiation oncology services.

“We are always looking for new and innovative ways to educate our patients,” says Cancer Center Director Justin Drew. “This technology allows us to effectively educate our patients by making resources easily accessible in a modern way.”

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