If common sense, or as we call it in Bedford, horse sense, were to be the guiding principle of our healthcare system, we’d be much healthier, less fearful, and save lots of money.
Let me explain. When I ran the emergency department at Westchester Medical Center, most patients fell into two categories. Those with life-threatening emergencies caused by car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and other horrors and the “walking wounded.”
The former were in dire need of acute, life-saving, interventional medical care while the latter needed some of the help in the form of common sense.
For major trauma victims, teams of technicians, nurses, and physicians swiftly gathered and, employing every tool modern medicine had to offer, we saved lives. We used a ton of medications, a multitude of testing and endless surgical procedures. No expense is spared when you are brought to a major trauma center.
Everything and everyone is focused on saving your life. Common sense is helpful but not the most important part of the equation. Training, focus, and the most advanced medical technologies are what you really need.
The walking wounded are another story. They are people who are not dangerously ill. They come to the ER for a variety of reasons: they may not have a primary doctor, don’t want to wait at a doctor’s office, or they don’t have the means. Or they may have done too much online research and are just panic-stricken.
More than 60 percent of patients who go to the ER shouldn’t be there. They just don’t need ER level care. They’re the ones who would best benefit from a horse sense.
So before you decide to run to the ER with a headache you think could be an intracranial bleed or a stomachache you think may be a ruptured internal organ, use some horse sense and follow these pieces of advice:
1. Shut off the computer.
2. Hydrate. Drink a gallon of Gatorade diluted with a gallon of water.
3. Stop eating unhealthy foods or drinking alcohol and coffee while you are feeling under the weather.
4. Have a bowl of chicken soup. It isn’t just an old wives’ tale, it has protein and immune boosters that will help you heal faster.
5. Get some rest. Get into bed and turn off the TV, the light and the noise.
6. Don’t take medication based on Internet recommendations.
7. Don’t listen to your friends and compare your symptoms to theirs.
8. Spend the next 24 hours taking care of yourself and watching what happens.
If you get worse, your fever gets higher, headache progresses, and belly gets more tender, common sense dictates you seek medical advice.
Who you get the advice from will affect your outcome.
Not every doctor is right for you. What does work is a doctor who is patient centric, one who works to serve you and focuses on making you better. It’s easy to identify the right doctor. It’s just a matter of common sense.
It’s important your doctor is well-trained, but even more he/she must listen and respect you and your opinion. (By the way, eye contact is key here).
A good doctor is one who spends time getting to know you and your situation before ordering tests and prescribing medications. A really good doctor knows that less is most often more.
People look at doctors as the experts and no matter what we all say, patients believe the doctor knows everything, specifically that’s best for them. That could not be further from the truth.
No matter how well trained and experienced your doctor, you are the only one who lives inside your body, not the doctor. To get good care you and the doctor must work as a team. You must be able to communicate the information and the doctor must be able to listen.
Finally, doctors must be aware of their power and stop using fear and ego as a way to interact with the patient. Don’t give them your trust so freely. It’s your health after all. Let them prove themselves first.
That’s just plain horse sense, isn’t it?