The Healing Power of Instruction Sheets

What do you do with the instruction sheet from the doctor’s office? Lately I’ve been obsessed with preserving its power. Wouldn’t it be great if we eliminated the preventable suffering due to a miscommunications, misunderstandings and misrememberings that prevent patients from receiving proper therapy?

As a patient, I know how easy it is to mess up. I’ve had occasions when I intended to read the instruction sheet when I get home. But that rascally sheet got lost between the car seats or forgotten in a pile of junk mail. Sometimes, I suffered—and it was my fault.

Part of the problem is handout fatigue. We get handouts throughout the week, from bulk-lot stores to kids’ schools. At the doctors’ offices alone, along with the instruction sheet we might get handouts for preventive medicine measures, about local support services, or inviting us to an upcoming educational event.

We need to draw attention to the fact that DOCTORS’ INSTRUCTION SHEETS ARE DIFFERENT THAN ALL OTHER HANDOUTS and must be treated differently.

One step may be for every patient to get a three-ring binder for their medical instruction sheets, and then keep that binder in a handy, unforgettable spot. Now patients (and their caregivers) have a reference.

As Healthy survivors, make reading your instruction sheets a high priority. Guard them with your life from the time you get them until they are safely in your binder. Study them the day you get home. Refer to them.

Health care is increasingly complex. More care takes place in the out-patient setting. Patients have more responsibility. Doctors have more to do in shorter visits. As Healthy Survivors, preserve the power of instruction sheets by valuing their role in optimizing your medical care.

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