Your health is in your hands

By - Jan 1st 1970

We are living in an age where medical expertise is no longer the preserve of medics. There is so much medical information out there, mostly for free. You only need to piece two and two together to come up with what you might be ailing from. The more you are aware of your health matters, the more you become empowered in your own care. 
Decision-making in healthcare is not the sole prerogative of your doctor. It must be a shared decision-making process with you. At your initial consult, you should already be well aware of your symptoms, and potential treatment options. This opens you up to discussions about what’s best for you, rather than being veered towards a default treatment pathway.  

Such an approach is called individualized treatment. You must be looked at as a unique individual, with very unique sets of characteristics. Whatever ends up as a recommendation can never be generalized, it must be based on your context. 
And that’s where you come in. You end up being party to deciding what treatment you get. Nothing can be prescribed without your involvement. You are not doctoring yourself here, you are simply being a self-advocate for your own health needs.

Treatment options

There will be many factors to consider as you make decisions on treatment options. The main thing will be the effectiveness of the proposed treatments. Is it a temporary relief of symptoms, or is it a cure? How much does it cost? Some treatments cost more than others, and their effectiveness may vary. 
Alternate approaches are available for almost any conceivable ailment. Your doctor plays a guiding role without being paternalistic, but final decisions are your sole prerogative.  
Beware of potential side effects of any appealing treatment options. You can discount minor unwanted effects that hardly have any consequences. But anything that may potentially make you worse should be avoided.

You also need to be wary of newer treatments being promoted as superior. Marketing is no different in healthcare, don’t accept it just because the ad makes you feel better already. Go for the tried and tested, where scientific evidence is already tangible. So you will not literally prescribe your own pills. What you will do is to get yourself informed as much as possible. Get online and look up some information. Talk to your family and friends. Don’t be afraid to seek out a medic and pick their brains informally.
Some underrated health workers, like nurses and paramedics, are walking encyclopedias of health information, seek them out. All you want is to be actively involved in your individualized care, eventually ending up with optimal outcomes.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.

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