How many times have you or a loved one suffered from an improperly diagnosed illness that your doctor was unable to solve?
Or perhaps you have suffered through a painful treatment regimen that was unnecessary once the underlying cause of the problem was eventually discovered.
It seems everyone has one or more stories of such doctor incompetence resulting in needless patient suffering.
The typical managed care doctor’s office (or hospital emergency room) is busier than ever, often resulting in lower quality patient examinations and doctor-patient dialogue. A recent study shows that the average initial patient examination only lasts a little over nine minutes, with the most frequent outcome being a quick prescription to treat the observed symptoms or another booking to conducting more tests.
As a result, a correct diagnosis of the underlying cause of the patient’s issue is frequently overlooked, extending the patient’s suffering and wasting everyone’s time.
The good news is that most patients are equipped with the essential time, information, and motivation to take more responsibility for their own health and their own diagnosis. Here are 10 ways you can take control of your health by helping yourself and your health care provider reach faster, more effective, and less invasive personal health solutions.
How You Can Be Healthier In 2015
1. Record the relevant facts associated with your illness prior to meeting with your doctor.
Studies show that most illnesses are not caused by genetic or internal defects; they have an external or environmental trigger—usually related to things like diet, lifestyle changes, or exposure to some kind of toxin or irritant.
This is information not typically provided on patient history forms, nor information your doctor will necessarily probe for in the short initial examination, yet this information is often essential to reaching an accurate diagnosis.
2. Keep a log of your symptom expression and development.
Where were you when you first and subsequently experienced your symptoms, and how have the symptoms modulated with your associated activities?
Where on your body exactly are your symptoms being experienced, and where are they not? When did you first and subsequently experience your symptoms and what were you doing differently at those times?
3. Focus on the unique attributes of your specific illness and your unique circumstances.
Identify people similar to you in terms of lifestyle, location, and habits who are not experiencing the same problem, and what you are doing or have done differently.
Related: 4 Best Doctors For Chronic Illness
Epidemiologists use this technique very effectively to pinpoint the cause of serious outbreaks. Most illnesses can be traced to something unique about your special habits, your unique location, or the unique timing of your illness.
4. Formulate many hypotheses for your illness.
Think outside the box—don’t just limit yourself to the obvious sources. Use the information you’ve uncovered in the first three steps to imagine any potential source for your malady.
Casting a wide net with the right information filters increases the chance of finding the needle in the haystack that many health care professionals don’t have the time or tools to uncover by themselves.
5. Be specific in articulating the trigger mechanism for your illness.
Don’t just say ‘dietary changes’. I once had a client where the cause of very painful kidney stones was eventually traced to “30-pound weight gain over the holidays followed by equally rapid weight loss the following month.”
6. Test each hypothesis against the facts.
This isn’t as hard as it sounds—all you have to do is find one relevant and supportable fact to rule out each non-viable cause of your illness.
Another client of mine was able to conclusively rule out an allergy to pet dander as the cause of his debilitating and recurring sinus infections (one of his doctor’s favorite suspects) by tracing the onset and recurrence of his symptoms to the use of a new wood stove in his house, and not to his recurring exposure to his dogs.
Related: 6 Health Benefits Of Pets
7. Narrow the possible sources of your illness to the most probable cause.
The most probable cause is the one that requires the fewest assumptions and explanations to explain the problem facts—who the illness is affecting, where you are when it is expressing, where on your body it is expressing, when exactly the symptoms express, and so forth.
Most causes will be ruled out against one or more of these facts, and the weaker possibilities will require less plausible explanations to fit the facts.
8. Summarize and present your findings at the outset of your doctor’s visit.
Don’t let your doctor just start to automatically examine you with various instruments, tests, and palpations.
Engage in verbal discourse early: tell the doctor what you’ve uncovered, and what you think maybe causing the problem. Then let your doctor evaluate and rule out your probable hypotheses.
9. Question alternative diagnoses suggested by your doctor.
Use the same critical thinking process and cold hard facts you used to analyze your problem to evaluate and rule out implausible reasons for your illness.
Doctors are far from perfect diagnosticians—autopsies reveal 20% or more of serious illnesses were improperly diagnosed.
10. Defend your body—be your own advocate.
Don’t let your doctor invade the sanctity of your body, perform invasive tests, and prescribe invasive procedures or heavy-duty medication unless you can support the need for these procedures based on the case-by-case justification supported by the problem facts.
Information is power—and you are responsible for your health!
Your doctor has other considerations and distractions such as an overflowing waiting room, patients looking for quick fixes, and a medical compensation system that encourages short initial examinations, an overabundance of tests, and maximum prescriptions. Just as with a home repair job, sometimes the only way to ensure the job gets done right is to take matters into your own hands. Only you have the time, motivation, and information to take ultimate control over your health and ensure that the quickest, most effective, and the least invasive solution is applied whenever you do get sick.
Reid Jenner, the author of Diagnose Yourself, is an acclaimed naturopathic problem-solving specialist with over twenty years of experience designing, teaching, and facilitating root-cause analysis techniques in the health sector, with a successful record solving hundreds of health problems for clients with a wide range of maladies. He is passionately focused on helping every patient use his or her personal health history to find the quickest, simplest, and least invasive permanent solution to each problem.