Top Docs 2008 Part III: Why to Speak Up

Foreign smells. Native garb. The buzz of unfamiliar words. Whether you’re shivering on a gurney or simply going in for a checkup, entering the healthcare system can be like landing in another country (and a seriously bureaucratic one, at that).

This is no time for sitting passively on the tour bus, however: Patients who get involved in their care not only chart higher rates of satisfaction, but end up healthier, too. Ask your doctor to wash his hands, and cut your risk of infection. Double-check your prescription, and help head off medication errors.

Little wonder, then, that when we asked more than 200 local
doctors to share their top advice for patients, nearly half the respondents called for better communication. “[Patients] are our partners in keeping them healthy,” says Dr. Jessica Fewkes, a dermatologic surgeon at Mass Eye and Ear. “Asking questions, pointing out things, reminding us of previous issues—it allows us to deliver the best possible care.”

A stay in the hospital may feel more overwhelming than a trip to the doctor’s office, but the same rules apply. Bring a family member, friend, case worker, or other advocate who can help you speak up. Get to know the staffers and treat them as members of your team. And for God’s sake—don’t just lie there.

Inpatient Vitals
First time in the hospital? We’ll get you prepped. What you need to know—and do—about hospital infections. Ticking off the checklist with help from Maureen Spencer, infection control manager at New England Baptist Hospital:

Meet the Surgeon (Really, They’re Not That Scary)
Tufts’s chief of surgery Bill Mackey opens up.

The R.N. Weighs in
What three decades on duty have taught the Boston Medical Center’s Nancy Figueiredo.

Role Call
To better communicate with your doctor, it helps to figure out what kind you’ve got.

Where to Get…
Medical help on your own schedule.