The Consumer

Patients have become proactive

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A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing but, at the very least, it enables you to ask questions. This is particularly true in medicine.

Easy access to information is changing the traditional doctor-patient relationship. Many patients no longer just sit in awe and fear of their doctors, taking everything they are told as gospel truth, not complaining even when the cure turns out to be worse than the disease.

Of course, there are a few who think the Wikipedia is more credible than doctors with degrees from the world’s top schools and years of experience.

But most people use the little they know for a more informative and enlightening exchange with their physicians to find out the various options available, and not just accept whatever is offered, no questions asked.

Dr. Ramon Santos-Ocampo, chair of radiology of the Makati Medical Center (MMC), thinks it is a good thing that patients are “more proactive.” He says patients research, Google their ailments, and are better informed on what can and should be done to make them better.

Even before MMC acquired its latest high-technology tool for cancer treatment, TomoTherapy, people have already been asking about it, according to members of the hospital’s radiation therapy team, Drs. Kathleen H. Baldivia and Dennis V. Doromal. Some patients have been to countries where the treatment is already available, like Hong Kong and Singapore.

TomoTherapy, which is able to make a 360-degree turn, delivers radiation that targets more accurately and precisely diseased parts, reducing damage to noncancerous tissues. Baldivia says this reduces toxicity for normal tissues. And, because radiation delivery is more precise, higher doses can be given with little or no damage to healthy body parts.

Despite its advantages, Santos-Ocampo stresses that the patient will have to make the decision whether or not TomoTherapy should be used. He says the patient will be presented different therapy packages, their costs, features, advantages and disadvantages. “Patients will be able to make informed decisions,” he says.

Bill of Rights

Empowering patients to make informed choices appears to be a major focus of the revitalized MMC. It has adopted the Patient’s Bill of Rights that lists what a hospital client could and should expect.

The bill classifies the patient’s rights into: Right to Medical Care of Good Quality, Right to Freedom of Choice, Right to Self-determination, Right to Information, Right to Confidentiality, Right to Health Education, Right to Dignity, Right to Religious Assistance, Rights of Unconscious Patient, and Rights of Legally Incompetent Patient.

The category “Procedures against the Patient’s Will” states, “Diagnostic procedures or treatments against the patient’ s will can be carried out only in exceptional cases, if specifically permitted by law and conforming to the principles of medical ethics. In such cases, informed consent is secured from next-of-kin whenever possible.”

Of course, with the rights come responsibilities. Among other things, the patient is expected to provide complete and accurate information about his/her health, including present condition, past illnesses, hospitalizations, medications, natural products and vitamins, and any other matters pertaining to health; provide complete and accurate information including full name, address, telephone numbers, date of birth, insurance carrier and employer (when necessary); ask questions about diagnosis or treatment and inform the doctor of potential problems in following prescribed treatment, and abide by all hospital rules and regulations.

Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City; fax 8974793/94; or e-mail lbolido@inquirer.com.ph.

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