Today I had to accompany a relative of mine to CT Scan. This was done in a reputed medical institution. When I was helping fill up the forms, I saw that there was a checkbox for “The side effects have been explained to me and I understand it.”
Most of the people were signing blindly. No side effects were really explained to us, so I asked the desk assistant if she could explain the side effects. Then she did explain the side effects and precautions in brief. I would have liked more explanation, but what she gave me was enough to sign off the and check the box.
I was able to remain polite, but still exercise my right.
What had happened had I not asked it? Is there no structured process? She didn’t have to explain it to every patient. They could have printed a brochure. They had gathered all the patients in a room, so they even could have just explained them all at once.
Advanced medical technology is one thing. But even with the basic technology we have, the quality of medical service can be significantly improved by avoiding the “PAE” or Preventable Adverse Events. What we need is a structured process. Patients must exercise their right of knowing the critical information. If enough patients ask about it, it will result in getting a structured process in place that will significantly reduce PAE.
A great book that deals with this subject is “The Checklist Manifesto“. It talks about an interesting case. A stabbed victim was brought in in a hospital. He seemed ok, people were just doing first aid on him. Suddenly his blood pressure and other vitals dropped for worse. The doctors took him to the operation table and found that his stab wound was far deep and there was lot of internal bleeding. Later when the operation was completed and he regained consciousness, they asked him what was the weapon. ” A bayonet”. A bayonet is far longer and stronger knife than typical stabbing weapons. Had the doctors followed a process, a checklist of some sort, where first thing they do is ask about the weapon, they could have saved a lot of trouble.
Generally we have a culture in India where doctor has status of almost a demi-god. People trust the doctor blindly. This is not to say the doctors are doing a bad job, but the doctor is a human and he/she is bound to make some mistake, or forget to tell you something.
Here are some simple things you can do to help your doctor cure you faster and with more certainty.
1. List down the symptoms on a of paper.
2. List a number of questions to ask the doctor on paper.
3. List all other medicines you are taking on a paper.
4. If the doctor prescribes medicine, ask about three things – side effects, interactions with other medicines, and what to do if you miss a dose. Write down this things, because you might forget later.
5. For a serious illness, do not hesitate to find another doctor and take a second opinion.