I am a wife, mother, daughter, and friend to many. I care about issues that are both big and small, and I seek to spread truth.
To Diagnose Oneself or Not Diagnose Oneself; That is the Question
Once upon a time, on the planet of you, you wake up one day after years of not feeling like your best self, and decide you probably should visit your doctor. You call to make an appointment and the medical receptionist asks, "What is the reason for your visit?". On it's face, this seems like a reasonable question. I mean, you don't just take your car to the mechanic without telling him what you think is wrong with it. So you answer, "Well, I don't really know, I just don't feel good". She presses further, "Well, what are your main symptoms?" as she starts to ramble off the standard Covid checklist of symptoms they now screen everyone for every time.
Now as this woman is screening you for Covid, which is NOT the problem, I'm sure you're asking yourself how you're going to explain what it really is you want to see the doctor for.... You could say that you are tired all the time, your joints ache, you just feel like somethings not right, or a myriad of other symptoms you've been ignoring. Maybe you have an idea what's wrong because a close friend or loved one is having similar symptoms and got a diagnosis, and so maybe now you think you should get checked too. Let's say you decide that you want to investigate why you are so tired and having a lot of joint pain. So you tell this to the receptionist, whereupon she informs you that you can only see the doctor for one ailment at a time due to insurance requirements. "Ok, then" you say. "I'm worried that I might have XYZ and want to discuss that with him." This usually satisfies the questioning because now they have something to write in the appointment slot.
Do you see what just happened here? Due to insurance requirements and medical office norms, you were forced to practically diagnose yourself before the appointment! I have a problem with the concept that you first need to explain yourself to the receptionist, which forces you to name a symptom or diagnosis. This is one of my pet peeves of our health care system. There is a plethora of medical information out there, including all the new drugs advertised on TV which list symptoms and ailments they help, combined with the big "what is the reason for your visit" question, yet we are not supposed to be diagnosing ourselves. Ugh.
Perspectives on the Human Body. System or Issues?
So, now that you've given yourself a possible diagnosis, you get to your doctor appointment and the doctor says, "So, what are you here for, you think you might have XYZ.?" The problem with this scenario is that now you either have to defend your initial diagnosis of yourself, or try to backtrack and tell the doctor that you really don't know and need help figuring out why you've been feeling so unwell the last few years.
The problem with sticking to your own diagnosis is that doctors usually dislike you diagnosing yourself, "because you are not a doctor", and since its true that you are not a doctor, you could be taking them down a misleading path in your health journey. If you backtrack, it leaves the door open for the doctor to actually start doing their job and trying to figure out your symptoms, but the initial damage is done of having tried to diagnose yourself, and most of them think you are a web searching hypochondriac. Of course this all started at your first interaction with the receptionist who made you choose between one symptom/problem, or coming up with a diagnosis in the the first place!
Let's say you backtrack and tell the doctor, "Well, I've not been feeling well the last few years, and I've got a bunch of little issues that I think are adding up".
A good doctor will be interested in figuring out what your symptoms are and how they may possibly be connected. They approach you and your problems from a whole body system perspective. They are willing to ask you about your various symptoms, order some blood work, maybe offer you anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy for painful joints or whatever, and tell you to make another appointment in a few weeks to discuss the results.
A doctor that is overly influenced by managed care type health insurances will almost never treat the human body as a whole system. They don't think past the most immediate concern to consider multiple symptoms as a sign of sickness or disease and will continue to break your issues down into "one problem or issue per appointment". So you are now forced to concentrate on whatever is the most prominent issue to you at the moment. If this kind of doctor orders blood work, they usually look at it to see if anything sticks out, not to get a look at the overall picture of you. You may be told to make another appointment to go over the results, but usually they say they'll call you with results. This type of doctor is usually a waste of your time.
Don't Hold Your Breath!
After you've taken the first step and gotten through the initial doctor visit, navigating the continued maze of the health care system is one of the most frustrating journeys you can undertake. You may now have to go get blood work or other tests done, wait months to see a specialist, wait for test results, get referred to another doctor, have to travel out of town, etc. If your doctor is the useless type, you may have already given up on improving your health or receiving a diagnosis; or you are at square one and looking for a new doctor!
There are so many points of communication breakdown along this journey. You MUST become your own best advocate, or you will get swept under the rug. The following is a list of breakdown points I have discovered over the years.
- Blood work, imaging tests, or prescriptions never get ordered.
- Your pharmacy doesn't call to say your prescription is ready, so you call them only to find out that they didn't fill it, because your insurance doesn't cover it and its too expensive for your budget; now you have to call and ask the doctor to prescribe something else.
- Referrals don't get sent: you are calling the new doctor wondering what's taking so long, only to be informed they have't received your referral at all.
- Tests aren't received back at your doctor's office.
- The new doctor or specialist's office fails to process your referral and never calls to make your appointment.
- You get to your next appointment with the specialist and they can't find your records, or the ordering doctor's office hasn't sent over lab or imaging results needed.
- You are standing in the new office now being told you should've already signed a medical records release form that no one has asked you to sign yet, and this is why they don't have your records.
- ANY of these doctors could unexpectedly call out sick, go on vacation, or have a family emergency and cancel your appointment; now you are back to waiting for weeks for another one.
- Now that we have Covid as a forced part of our life, one wrong answer to their Covid questions could give them cause to deny you your appointment or derail the purpose of your visit.
Tips for Healthcare System Success
Having reviewed some of the major pitfalls in receiving care, I have some tips for you to stay on track.
- Always put appointments on your calendar immediately. I recommend putting your family members' appointments on your own calendar too so you can remind them, or yourself if you attend their appointments, and not double book yourself.
- Never leave a doctor's office without making your recommended follow up appointment. Never.
- Before you leave, don't forget to ask for proof of your appointment (a doctor's note) if you had to miss work or school to attend an appointment. This could also include any work related modifications recommended by your doctor.
- Always ask if there are any medical information releases you need to sign and fill them out before leaving.
- Always verify which pharmacy, lab, or imaging center you will be using or need to use.
- Get a physical copy your prescriptions, test results, or referrals if possible, just in case!
- Stop by your pharmacy (or call) the same day to pick up your prescriptions. If they are ready, perfect! If not, you can potentially find out if there will be any problems with your insurance that you'll need to contact your doctor about to make changes.
- If you suspect that you may need a referral, check the names of specialists in your area ahead of time to see who is accepting your insurance. You can even go one step further and call their office to see if they are accepting new patients.
- Follow up on your referrals with the office you were referred to within two weeks. This way you'll know if they received it, or if you'll have to call your referring doctor to have them send/resend it.
- If you have a hard time with absorbing medical information, keeping yourself organized or remembering details, you have a right to bring someone with you to your appointments. Sometimes bringing a close friend or relative to important appointments will help you get the most out of the visit, because they can remind you of details and/or advocate for you as needed.
- If your doctor's office is unreachable by phone (many of them now only let you leave a message and you are forced to wait until they call you back, and then they never do!) then just walk into their office! Don't wait around leaving messages just to schedule appointments or get necessary information.
- If your doctor is not treating you as a whole person, or ignoring your concerns, think about getting a new doctor or seeking out alternative medicine!
Doctors Are an Extension of Big Pharma
Although I don't want to go too deep into the topic of doctors and their unfortunate obligatory relationship to Big Pharma, I did want to pause a minute and state the obvious. Our society has lost our previous knowledge and access to natural cures. If you seek a doctor's advice they are never going to point you towards natural medicines, herbalists or alternative methods of healing the body. These options have been suppressed and ridiculed by modern healthcare. Going to a doctor's office usually results the following. You get a prescription drug, you get imaging or blood tests, more doctor visits and sometimes surgery. All of these things are controlled and influenced by insurance companies and drug makers; and they make a lot of money off of our sicknesses. Many times these things are necessary and even helpful, but their long-term intention is to control symptoms, not give cures. That would cost them a great loss of future revenue.
Just keep in mind that doctors and insurance companies are not gods. You know your body intimately and if modern healthcare isn't helping you, sometimes you have to exit their system and search the alternatives for the best care.
Why Does a Diagnosis Matter?
In closing, many people wonder what is the point of getting diagnosed with an illness or disease. Some people say that it doesn't make the disease go away, and others will accuse you of just wanting attention. I think the point of getting a diagnosis is to then be able to learn about your condition and how to manage it so that you retain or even regain a better quality of life for whatever remainder of life you have left. When something in your body is going wrong, life can become difficult, painful, and depending on the problem, even result in death. The best way to take care of ourselves is from an informed perspective. Getting an official diagnosis is like consulting a compass; it will point you in the right direction.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2022 Willow Mattox