When you or a family member is sick and you’re not sure what’s wrong, you want answers as soon as possible. When you can’t get into to see your doctor right away, you might turn to friends, family, or the internet. While it’s amazing that we have such a wealth of information available at our fingertips, it can also be overwhelming and sometimes even a little dangerous.
It can be hard to know what sources to trust especially if you’re turning to the internet for the answers. Even when you find a source that seems trustworthy, it’s normal to ask, “But where are they getting their information?” And this is a smart thing to ask. You can’t just rely on one source of information for answers anymore, that’s why we’re talking about the importance of having what we’re calling a “Health Care Team,” that you can trust.
Today, even insurers are promoting more of a team format as they’re looking at ways to control costs. When you’re at the doctor or in a hospital, you’re going to see a team of people. You’ll see a nurse, someone you can consult about your prescriptions, and a primary care doctor. Maybe even more people depending on your diagnosis. But who is your team? Who do you surround yourself with when you’re not at the doctor and who do you trust to help you make important medical decisions?
Because sometimes you can’t make decisions entirely on your own. Sometimes you need a team to help you sort out your thoughts, feelings and the information you find. Why?
Due to past experiences, the information we’re exposed to, and the sources we choose to trust, everyone is at risk of confirmation bias. This means that if you go searching for information with an outcome in mind, you’re going to find information that confirms that outcome. If you’re convinced you’re sick with something that’s going to kill you, the terms you use to search on the internet and all the information you find are only going to confirm that opinion. You’re going to seek out answers that confirm what you already believe.
This is where your team will be extremely valuable. If you’ve built a team you can trust, they will offer opinions and information based on knowledge and experience, not on previous bias. And if they care about you or have your best interest at heart, they’ll tell you the truth even if it might not be what you want to hear.
So, who are the people you should have your team and how do you choose them?
Here are the four people we think should make up the core of your personal healthcare team. Keep in mind, this is a healthcare team for your everyday life, not for when you are sick and receiving or seeking treatment. You’ll see a medial team chosen by a doctor based on your diagnosis for that.
Your Primary Doctor
An obviously an important part of your team will be your primary care physician. This should be someone you trust and maybe (ideally) someone who has known you a long time and is familiar with your medical history.
Your primary care doctor should be a balanced individual who doesn’t jump the gun but is also not overly cautious. They should be willing to say what they thinking without offering an overbearing opinion. It’s important to find someone who is willing to build a relationship, not just get by on 5-minute conversations every year or so. You don’t want someone who will lean into your bias but who will think outside the box when it comes to diagnosis and treatment.
But, you can’t stop someone from having a bias, which is why it’s important to have multiple people on your team.
This might not be someone who can give you medical advice but someone who is willing to tell you when you’re showing bias, when you’re trusting a source that might be trustworthy, or that will simply be there when you need to talk or brainstorm.
If you spend any amount of time researching health issues, fitness, healthy lifestyle choices, or anything in the health industry, you know there are some sites you can and can’t trust. You’ve probably come across sources with conflicting information and learned which ones are more trustworthy based on the sources they use and how the information matches up with other sources. You’ve learned where to go for quick and reliable information. This knowledge base that you’ve built up can be a part of your team.
Note: Be sure you fact-check all information and run any medical decisions by a professional before acting on them. Your knowledge base shouldn’t completely influence your decisions, just inform them.
Someone With Personal Experience
This particular part of your healthcare team may not be added until you are facing something specific but can be extremely valuable when it comes to support. If you or someone in your family has received a particular diagnosis and you’re feeling alone or overwhelmed, talking to someone who has faced the same thing can be a comfort. They can help you sort through information, guide you on where to turn, and just offer a sympathetic ear.
In our online world, Facebook groups can be a great source for this. There are many groups out there geared toward those facing particular illnesses and the ability to instantly connect with people that understand what you’re going through is huge.
These people, or some version of them, can make up a great healthcare team. But, it’s also important to remember that even these sources may disagree and offer conflicting information. But, that’s why it’s important to have multiple people from various backgrounds on your team. You get well-rounded advice and you can make sure you’re not leaning towards your biases.
In the future, we’re going to see a shift from doctor-centered health care to patient-centered care, where the patients themselves are doing the bulk of their research using available resources before they even go to see the doctor. If you want to be satisfied with your health care, you need to take ownership and you need to put together your healthcare team.
Everybody has their own experience and knowledge and based on that, you can get good answers and guidance from you team. Then, hopefully that gives you the confidence you need to feel good about the decisions you’re making and move forward. Because we probably all agree –the worst part of healthcare is that paralyzed feeling of not knowing what to do.
As always, please let us know what you think. Reach out with your questions and comments. It’s your questions, your comments that help us to be better and to keep learning. Check out our podcast for more information and even more healthcare topics.