Watching the Super Bowl last Sunday, I was struck by how many parallels there are between being a player in one of the world’s most complex games and being a patient in one of the world’s most complex health care systems. The memorable contest, which saw the underdog Baltimore Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers, provided some important insight into how to get better care. Here are some patient tips taken from the game:
There is no “i” in “Team:” Sure, it’s a cliche but it is a good one. And it applies to your health — and the health of those you care about. Your “teammates,” which include your health care providers, friends, family members, are there to help you and vice versa. Ask for help when you need it, and do what you can to support them. Never, ever go it alone in dealing with your health or the health care system.
Prepare: Whether you are a player studying the film of an opposing squad, or a fan who is trying to recreate that “winning” chili recipe you served during the conference championship, the days leading up to the Super Bowl are often spent in intense preparation. If only we put that much effort into getting ready to go to the doctor.
To get the most from your visit, with your health care provider, prepare by doing research, writing down your symptoms, creating a list of questions to ask your doctor, and bringing a bag with all of your medications and a copy of your health history. This will help you make the most out of your limited time, and lower the chances of a medical or diagnostic error.
Quarterback Your Own Care: One of the main jobs of the quarterback is to make sure all the players know the play. This is a role you absolutely have to fill if you want to be successful in managing your care. Make sure that all the members of your health care team know each other, know your about your current health status, know what medication you are taking, and know your health history. Always inform all of them if there is a change to your health.
Technology is not Perfect: Despite the great play of both teams, perhaps the most memorable event of the Super Bowl was when the power went out for 34 minutes. The first-ever Super Bowl Blackout was a good reminder that technology is not perfect. While we have an incredible array of diagnostic tools and other technologies available to us, they are only as perfect as the humans using them. Do not put blind trust in technology, and when it comes to interpreting that technology (i.e. reading x-rays, etc.) always get a second opinion!
Believe in Your Self: Even those who hold powerful positions in our society can feel powerless — or even stupid — once they step into a doctor’s office. Don’t! You must partner with your care provider to get the best possible care. In fact, your doctor needs you to ask questions; and you should always talk freely and honestly about your health issues; speak up when you don’t understand something, correct any wrong information in your records, and tell your doctor what you want and need.
If your self esteem checks out when you check-in at the front desk, here’s a pep talk on how to get it back: Pretend you are Joe Flacco, the Ravens quarterback and Super Bowl MVP. In the spring, he left critics laughing when he proclaimed himself to be the best quarterback in the NFL. By the end of the season, he was.
Now go out and be the champion of your care!