Hospital Survival Guide

Doctor's Orders

Have you ever just flipped through your hospital chart when no one was looking? Probably not. It, after all, belongs to the doctor.

For most, being a patient means being pretty passive, says Kaplan. Her research shows that during a 20-minute discussion, chronically ill women ask about four questions of their doctor. Chronically ill men, on average, don't even ask one.

Looking out for yourself in a hospital, in spite of feelings of vulnerability and intimidation, requires practice. Start by communicating more effectively with your doctor.

The doctor/patient relationship is a partnership, and no one says the patient can't be the managing partner. Ask your doctor what his or her definition is of an effective doctor/patient partnership. If the answer makes it clear that a partnership is impossible, says Kaplan, then move on.

Make your time count. Write down questions and other pertinent information about your illness before seeing a doctor. Skip the waiting room magazines and mentally review information you'd like to give and receive. This will help you respond more quickly as the doctor presents new information.

Continued on page 4:  Check Out, Then Check In