Lessons from my father…

My father’s most recent health experience and his visit to the ER has highlighted a few things about health and managing one’s care. Here are some things to take from my dad’s experience:

  1. eHealth Can Improve Coordination of Care: In this case, having a single care record could have prevented this mis-hap. Our family doc saw my dad somewhat regularly and was more aware of my dad’s progress. He made a recommendation, but this information wasn’t passed along to the specialist. Only after visiting the ER and a call from the ER doc did all of the docs get together to coordinate things.
  2. Being a Good Patient is More Than Following "Doctor’s Orders": My dad is great a following directions. Because of his diabetes, our family physician told him to start exercising and change his diet. The next day, he started walking and now he runs 5-10km each day and is very active. He also has changed how he eats and has essentially cut out refined sugars. Normally, most patients don’t follow instructions well (and thus the issue of patient compliance), but my dad did and improved markedly to the point where he doesn’t need medications because he can control his condition through lifestyle changes. But, simply following orders didn’t really help my dad. Which brings me to the next lesson…
  3. Patients Need to Take Ownership: My dad is great a following orders, but he is very passive. He doesn’t ask questions and doesn’t look to take initiative. Part of this may be that he doesn’t feel comfortable in this role. But as our health care system continues to evolve, a significant understanding is that patients will be more active in managing their care. As such, patients MUST take ownership over their care: ask questions, read and learn about your condition, collect and keep copies of your care record, know what your lab results are, etc.
  4. Not Everything Is Preventable: In my dad’s case, this point doesn’t really apply, but all of my health education and training remind me that when we deal with people (and their health), not everything is preventable. Medical science only knows so much and can only go so far. There are so many things going on that predicting how all of the interactions may turn out is nearly impossible: your genetic predisposition, environmental exposure,your personality, the food you eat/diet, the air, drugs/medications, daily cleaning and grooming products, EMFs from electronic devices – these all interact with one another and no-one really knows how. Even if you do everything *right*, you can’t prevent some things.

My dad is fine now, but his experience highlights some things that we all should be doing. Hopefully some of these lessons will help someone get better care and health.

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