Living Your Best When on Life’s Sick List

12:55 14 October in Health, Uncategorized
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Tips for Living with a Serious Medical Condition

Put your mind at ease with the power of knowledge and understanding in order to live your best when on life’s sick list.

Living with a serious medical condition means sweeping changes in your daily routine, your relationships, and your outlook. From family life and friendships to career and favorite activities, every important facet of your daily life may be affected after a troubling diagnosis. You may face rounds of tests and doctor visits, time-consuming treatments, and physical effects. [1; 2]

One key to living your best life when on life’s sick list or in the midst of a medical crisis, is by having a firm foundation of knowledge about your diagnosis and treatment – something many people with serious health conditions say is crucial yet may be difficult to attain. [3] The following insights, from experts and from people who’ve faced the same challenges, can help you live your best life when on life’s sick list.

Insights on how to live your best life when on life’s sick list

Having solid, trustworthy, and specific information about your condition, your diagnosis, and your treatment can help you feel in control of your daily decisions and of the big decisions you’re making with your doctor.  When Canadian researchers analyzed 23 well-designed studies [3 p 4] involving women and men with major chronic conditions, [3 p 5 & 6] knowledge about the condition emerged as a top priority. Unfortunately, they didn’t always receive it. Many study participants “reported confusion and contradictory information about conditions,” the researchers noted. [3 p 8]

Other major reviews have uncovered the same often unmet need. In a 2016 review of studies involving people coping with long-term chronic pain, [4 p 1, 2, 3, 4] scientists from the UK’s University of Leeds [4 p 1] found that communication, understanding, and trust in their doctors were fundamental to feeling in control. [4 p 5, 6, 7, 9]

“Mutual understanding enabled patients and health professionals to exchange their different types of expertise and knowledge in order to reach a common goal,” the researchers found. [4 p 6] “Patients felt understood when they were listened to and believed, and when they were provided with options to participate, or not, in discussions and decisions about their treatment.” [4 p 6]

Knowledge is power

Do you feel your healthcare providers have the expertise and information you need – and that you’re an informed participant in your medical care? If you are uncertain about your diagnosis, about a planned course of treatment, or about an on-going therapeutic approach, a medical second opinion can provide the detailed, personalized knowledge you need now. [5]

Medical second opinions

Major medical organizations endorse the practice of getting a second opinion – or even a third opinion if you’ve already received a second evaluation that is at odds with your primary doctor’s assessment. Did you know that a second opinion may change or refine a medical diagnosis or treatment plan – or serve to confirm your primary physician’s approach? Either way, the information you and your doctor receive will bolster your confidence and sense of control. [5; 6; 7]

A Team Approach

One exciting option you should consider is a multi-disciplinary medical second opinion, delivered by a team of specialists with expertise in your condition. This type of advanced evaluation takes a deep dive into your medical records and test results, weighing findings from many angles. [8] Physicians “do not operate in a vacuum. The multi-disciplinary approach to rendering a second opinion is critical,” notes nephrologist Leslie Shu-Tung Fang, MD, PhD, who holds the John R. Gallagher III and Katherine A. Gallagher Endowed Chair in Clinical Excellence at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.  

Dr. Fang describes how the approach works in cases that call on his expertise: “When we see a patient, we rely on our radiologists to give us the right radiological interpretation. We rely upon our pathologists to give us the right report. We depend on the hematology consult to tell us what the bone marrow looks like. We depend on the cardiologists to tell us what the cardiac function is.  And we make the best judgment based on all this input.”          

Being able to access a team of experts like Dr. Fang’s colleagues sounds great, but it also sounds like it would be a complicated process for most patients. Scheduling appointments with multiple specialists, at multiple locations, can add to the stress of someone who has been given a serious diagnosis. [9]

It doesn’t have to be that way. Technology like telemedicine, the internet, and email have transformed the experience of acquiring a medical second opinion — at least from those providers who are innovative.  Imagine if no matter where you live, you could consult with specialists at leading hospitals and research institutions, without taking a step outside your door. [8]

“When you have a complex problem like a cancer, and you’re living in the rural U.S., for example, you may feel like your options for a medical second opinion or more information about your possible condition are extremely limited,” says Richard Heinzl, MD, MPH, Global Medical Director for WorldCare International, Inc. “But now, patients have the power, through technology and through the types of services we provide at WorldCare, to access some of the very best medical opinions available.”

WorldCare Medical Second Opinions

WorldCare offers remote medical second opinion services that can confirm your original diagnosis, provide treatment recommendations, and help you learn more about your condition. WorldCare works with teams of specialists and sub-specialists from the top-ranked academic and research hospitals in the U.S, which comprise The WorldCare Consortium® and include: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. [11]

When you take advantage of WorldCare’s medical second opinion services, your case is reviewed by a team of specialists based at these and other world-renowned medical and scientific facilities. [8; 10; 11] Four to five medical experts study your case. [10] “If your diagnosis is cancer, that team would include an oncologist, pathologist, and radiologist, as well as a cancer surgeon or a geneticist, for example, all collaborating and looking at your case together,” Dr. Heinzl explains.

WorldCare’s services go beyond a diagnosis or treatment evaluation. They also help people learn more about their health and their condition. [10] “After a second opinion is rendered, our nurse case managers reach out to the patient to help them understand all this complex stuff,” Dr. Heinzl says. “Nurse case managers have great rapport with patients. They help them not only learn about the disease they’re dealing with but work with them to think of questions they can take to their physician or care team: ‘What are the side effects of this new medication?’ ‘Can you explain the risks of the surgery that’s been recommended?’ This gives patients some comfort in knowing more about their condition, but it also gives them a sense of power.”

Discover more

Seeking a medical second opinion? WorldCare’s network of specialists and its access to cutting-edge research can confirm or change your diagnosis within a week. Visit worldcare.com to change your diagnosis within two weeks.  Read more about the WorldCare MSO.

Sources:

1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Next Steps After Your Diagnosis, Step 2: Get the Support You Need

2. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Next Steps After Your Diagnosis, Step 5: Decide on a Treatment Plan

3. Liddy C, Blazkho V, Mill K, Challenges of self-management when living with multiple chronic conditions: systematic review of the qualitative literature, Canadian Family Physician. 2014 Dec; 60(12):1123-33

4. Fu Y, McNichol E, Marczewski K, Closs SJ, Patient-professional partnerships and chronic back pain self-management: a qualitative systematic review and synthesis, Health & Social Care in the Community 2016 May; 24(3):247-59

5. Center For Advancing Health, Seeking a Second… or Third… Opinion

6. Medicare.gov, Getting a second opinion before surgery

7. American Cancer Society, Seeking a Second Opinion

8. WorldCare Medical Second Opinion

9. American Cancer Society, Getting a Second Opinion

10. WorldCare, The WorldCare Consortium,