Last time I visited a doctor was a few months ago due to my stomach problems. I was procrastinating because I was a bit frustrated – I just moved to Germany and didn’t yet know how the healthcare system worked here, where to start looking for a doctor and what kind of doctor I actually needed. After deciding on which clinic to call, I had the appointment scheduled for the next day.
The doctor was really nice and we could even speak English. It was already difficult to explain the symptoms in my mother tongue, so English wasn’t the best alternative but better than my rusty German. We talked about what the potential causes could be, how we would proceed and what food I should avoid.
I don’t remember anymore why I expected to get a written note on what we discussed. Perhaps he was talking about the medical prescription instead. When I came to the administration desk I only got the prescription and that was it. I felt a bit disappointed, but I told myself to write down what we had discussed at home. By the time I got home, I had already forgotten most of it. Did he mention dairy products as well, or was this another discussion I had with a coworker? I didn’t want to sacrifice my love for cheese if it was not really necessary!
Later I read this article, which made me feel a bit better about myself but a bit more frustrated about all the people in the world. “Patients forget 40-80 % of what they hear in the doctor’s office immediately”.
So what do you do when you want to look for more information, and you feel bad about calling the doctor again? You ask Google. Bad idea. At one moment I had several browser tabs open with different suggestions on what food to avoid. They had the same list of foods, but on one it was promoted on the other advised against. And I really do like bananas, so the confusion was becoming more stressful. I think I stopped googling when I came across an article saying I should skip the medication and rather drink lemon juice every morning instead.
Now imagine how it must be for the ones undergoing complex treatments and talking to several medical experts. Sadly, education doesn’t help you either. Even highly educated patients are affected “particularly if they’re stressed or sick”. For example Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, in the year 2000 at age 55 underwent a prostate biopsy, which came back positive for prostate cancer. In an interview later that year, Giuliani recounted how he had been somewhat confused initially by the “positive” result from his biopsy, thinking this is a good thing.
So when things as important as health information get lost in translation, you need someone you trust and who can help you make sense of it all. We all process information differently. I spoke to Carol, our resident doctor and CEO. I wish all patients had that kind of personal support.
Stay connected, stay healthy.