July 11, 2009
This week a patient of mine came in armed with research she had done about a perplexing set of symptoms she’d been having. We’d discussed this virtually and tried several approaches to no avail. We pulled open the Mayo Clinic and NIH web pages that she’d discovered through a variety of search engines and come up with a syndrome (http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/Burning/BurningMouthSyndrome.htm) that I’d never been exposed to that fit almost all of her symptoms.
As we read through the syndrome and also the recommended workup to rule out the other treatable causes that might be producing her symptoms it dawned on me that medicine would be a lot easier if we physicians would encourage our patients to help us with their diagnoses.
A little over 70% of my patients have electronic access to significant portions of their records. This access has enabled others, like this patient, to take second and third looks at their labs, medications and pathology results. I’ve tried to encourage them to ask the question I didn’t ask during the visit. Some are doing this and are taking charge of their own health in ways they didn’t think possible.
Another of my patients was astonished at all of the medications she’d been prescribed over the years by many physicians including me. When doing the research she discovered that the majority of her symptoms were side effects of one or more of the medications. She asked for my help in weaning her from those medications (if possible). Over the last two months we’ve been able to eliminate all but two medications and she’s feeling better than she has in years. She herself said that she always felt disappointed if she didn’t come away from the doctor’s office without a new prescription but now has a totally different approach? When asked why she thinks it’s because she has access to the same information that her physicians do and now is working with physicians who don’t disparage her from managing her health.
Am really looking forward to the day when the entire electronic medical record that I use is the same one the patient uses. Where the patient and I can work together to improve a person’s health rather than treat a symptom.