The Educated Patient

Taking a Risk with a Chronic Condition

Tips for Working with the Team

What are your interests?

I believe that no one cares more about my health and the health of my family than me. I wish I had had some tips on working with the medical team when I was very ill. It would have saved me some trouble. As it was, I had to learn the hard way. There is a chronic disease self management program in B.C. which provides peer support but it’s time limited. While there are many hardworking healthcare professionals with good intentions, you’re bound to come across some that just aren’t. I want to help improve your communication skills so you can begin working with the team better.

Tips for Working with the Team

If you have a chronic health condition, or care for someone who does, you’ll know the medical team concept. In Canada, we have the Primary Care Physician who can provide the initial assessment, can order tests and can make referrals to specialists as needed. We also have emergency rooms, and walk in clinics for critical incidents. If your condition is chronic, you likely have a specialist you see on a regular basis, in addition to your PCP.

Who’s on your Team?

We have doctors who take additional training and become specialists. They can take referrals from a PCP and they can assess, sometimes diagnosis, and often order more tests as needed Sometimes they may even make referrals to other specialists. Typically, these type of appointments are harder to come by and often take months to arrange.

Then we have the super specialists who will assess and diagnose those conditions that stump the specialists. They can also order and conduct tests using very specialized equipment, and these appointments typically take a very long time to arrange.

In theory, there should be good communication between these team members but sometimes a patient lives in one health region and the specialist works in a different region. This can cause communication issues. You can ask about coordinating things like blood tests so you don’t have to make two visits or copying your PCP on test results but this may or may not work.

Create your own chart

If possible, start documenting any and all contact you have with the team. Keep track of which specialist does what. Follow up on any tests ordered. Ask for copies of consult letters. It’s important to be persistent but respectful. You don’t want to be labelled a difficult patient. Ask for copies of test results. Research the results yourself. Learn about your condition and be ready with questions when you have an appointment. Some of these tips for working with your team may seem obvious. Being respectful, even when triggered, is always the best tip.

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