Friday, February 1, 2013

If you don't ask, you won't know - applying the 3-Question rule to every doctor's appointment

A few weeks ago, I blogged about being first-time renovators, and the questions I try not to ask my architect. But having just experienced our latest round of decision-making, which involved finalizing everything from vent hood and window hardware to colors of shingles and lighting fixtures, I realize the trouble with being first time renovators isn't actually the questions I do ask, it's the questions I don't ask!

Take this most recent task of choosing every lighting fixture in the house. Twenty-plus lights had to be finalized this week, and while I've been looking at fixtures for months, Johnny and I had yet to make our final picks. Last week, when our architect sent a list of the lights left on our list, we decided to sit down one night and just knock them out. But as we hunkered down in front of our computers to search for and pick our final fixtures, I realized we didn't really have a clue what we were looking for. We were missing some very pertinent information. Take all of the exterior lights - how big should they be? What color and finish? What type of bulb? How will they be mounted? And the balcony lights...where will they hang? How much space do we need to allow? How big can they be? How far can they stick out?  The interior lights prompted the same type of questions: How far down should the pendants hang? How much clearance do we need for the door? How big can the fixture be? The questions for all fixtures just went on and on.

So - before spending even one more second searching for what lights we could only assume were correct - I placed a call to my architect. I started out asking 3 questions per light (size, finish, and mounting specification), and he ended up talking for about 10 minutes on each fixture. It was unbelievable! He had so much information waiting to offer up - I just hadn't tapped into it yet. 

Now, I know some of you might be saying, "Well, why didn't your architect offer up the information to begin with?" And to that I say, "How was he to know what information I needed if I didn't ask for it?"

And this, I believe, is the crux of the situation - as it applies to any professional with whom you're dealing who has more information than you do: How are they to know what we know, and what we don't know, if we don't ask?

I can promise you, my forthcoming, communicative architect wants nothing more than to arm me with the correct information, so that Johnny and I can make informed, productive decisions. If we waste time trying to figure it out on our own, we waste his time. He's constantly arming us with information. He just didn't know which information I needed because I didn't ask. 

I believe our doctors relate to us in a similar way. They want us to be informed. They want us to understand. But if we don't ask, there's no way for our doctor to know that a) we're not informed or b) we don't understand.

While there are a zillion questions that I think we often forget to ask at the doctor's office (although in my "Listen Up, Doc" webinar and in Chapter 4 of my book, I try to cover many of them!), here are three key questions that are great to include at every appointment, ensuring that we're informed, enlightened, and engaged:

Question #1) "What are my options?"

Whether it's in regard to an alternative medication, another treatment, or an alternate time-frame, I found that asking my doctor the question above shows that I want to be informed. I want to understand the choices available to me, and I want to make sure I'm not missing any thing that's out there. Perhaps discussing them aloud will make the decision-making process that much easier, too. And, in the case that there aren't any other options out there, better to know that up front, rather than speculate on what the options could be.

Question #2) "What do you think?" (or "What would you do?")

Bottom line - doctors are people, too, and there's value in asking their personal opinion. It might allow you to connect with your doctor on a slightly more personal level for once, and it will most likely put the decision you're making in a whole new light, for both you and your doctor. It will be enlightening to hear what someone else might do in your same situation. So often, it seems like we're facing these weighty decisions all alone, without any experience or opinion to consider.

Of course, couching the question with, "Now, don't be offended if I don't take your advice..." might be nice, but you can be the judge... 


Question #3) "What's the plan?"

This might be the most important question of them all. You need to be engaged with your treatment of lupus,  and the only way to do so is to understand where you're headed and how you're going to get there. Asking this question at the end of every appointment, if the doctor doesn't volunteer it, is essential. You need to know what's expected between now and the next appointment, and you need to know what's going to happen if those expectations aren't met. Asking this question, and follow up questions, should get you there.

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