Most of us approach healthcare as if we were victims of getting sick, and as if it’s somebody else’s (usually the doctor’s) responsibility to fix us.
Think about it this way: My car has about 75,000 miles on it. Yes, once in awhile I get the oil changed. I even put new tires on it two years ago because the others were beginning to go bald. When the kid next door ran into it with his bike, I touched up the scratch marks to improve its appearance and to keep it from rusting. The air filter needed changing once, and I’ve replaced the brake pads twice. But now it’s making these really funny coughing noises when I turn on the ignition.
Is the mechanic’s fault my car is doing strange things? No.
Is it up to the mechanic to fix it? Well — I’m going to ask him to.
Do I trust my mechanic to take care of it? Yes — but before he begins racking up my repair bill, I expect him to tell me what’s wrong and to give me the options for fixing it. If it gets too expensive, I want the option to say no — and perhaps to trade it in for a new car.
Would I ever just take my car to the mechanic, tell him to do whatever he thinks needs to be done, and I’ll just pay whatever it takes to do it? No I wouldn’t!
As car owners, most of us take an active role in maintaining our cars, preventing problems with them, and making decisions about repairing or replacing them.
So why don’t most of us do the same as patients? Why do most of us simply default to whatever the doctor has to say?
We need a mindset shift — a new paradigm — that says that doctors and other healthcare providers are our resources — but they aren’t our decision-makers. Even more importantly than our cars, we need to step up the plate to help make decisions about our care.
We need to begin taking that responsibility for ourselves and not expect that we can get sick, or not take care of ourselves, and the provider will fix everything that’s wrong with us. We need to make up our minds that “I’ll do whatever you tell me, Doc” just isn’t good enough.
Afterall — doctors are really our body mechanics, right?
We begin with prevention and maintenance — doing those things we know are good for us (or, perhaps, just not very bad for us.) Eat right and well, get plenty of rest, exercise, reduce stress — just those basics we hear are good for us all the time.
Then, when we have challenges to our health, we need to go to our trusted doctor to partner with him or her to determine our correct diagnosis and choose the treatment option that works best for us.
It’s not difficult — but for most of us, it’s definitely different. As time goes on and I write more blog posts here, we’ll talk about all those considerations and how you can find a healthier approach to your own care — with a goal of staying strong and healthy for a long time to come.