Happy World Blood Donor Day!
The World Health Organisation states that transfusion of blood and blood products save millions of lives every year.
It takes just an hour to donate blood (one and a half for plasma and platelets), and if you donate through the Australian Red Cross you'll get a complimentary drink and snack afterwards too.
What happens to my donation?
Here are some figures from the Australian Red Cross Blood Service:
Can I donate?
You need to be 18-70 years old, weigh 50kg or more and be fit and healthy. Head on over to the easy eligibility quiz and booking system through the Australian Red Cross website. The WHO also has a helpful page on basic eligibility guidelines here.
Don't forget to ask friends and family to come along too!
@WHO @redcrossbloodau #blooddonation #blooddonorday #GiveBlood
As cited in this newsGP article, the average person attends their GP six times a year. It is also clear that health literacy and quality of healthcare has never been so important.
Having worked as a GP for 16 years, I’ve shared the journey with thousands of patients.
In this article, I’d like to offer some practical suggestions for the health consumer in order to get the very best out of their GP.
Booking your appointment
Often GPs allow long appointments to be booked for issues like mental health, or for multiple issues. Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible for the GP to just extend the consultation so don’t worry if your GP recommends that you return for a further appointment, as some things can’t be dealt with in a typical 15-minute slot.
The first time you see a GP, it will take time for them to get to know you. Bring in a health summary from your last GP, or to write a list including: serious medical problems and hospital admissions, operations, medications and allergies, and family history.
Setting the agenda
What you want from your consultation may be different from your GP. If you can, clarify your thoughts, concerns and expectations about your health. If you have more than one problem, tell your GP at the start so that you can both prioritise and set aside the appropriate amount of time. Rushing through a list in one go is not good in the long run.
On the record
Make notes if you’d like a record for later. Sometimes I provide a summary of major ‘take home’ points for my patients, especially if a lot has been covered. I started doing this after a few patients returned having completely forgotten points discussed, or overlooked certain agreed actions from the last consultation.
Is your GP listening?
GPs are trained to listen first, and speak later. Unfortunately, not all GPs abide by that saying. A study in the USA found that many patients will have stated their agenda by about six seconds, though some took almost two minutes. Doctors only elicited a health consumer’s agenda half the time.
Many GPs, myself included, have been tempted at times to start bombarding the patient with questions, thinking we already have the answers. Despite this, the first minute or so when you are talking is precious time for you to explain your agenda in your own way.
Ask your GP to let you finish if you don’t feel you’ve had a chance to say everything you need (within reason). It’s well known that inadequate listening by the GP can lead to problems such as doing the wrong examination or test. In the worst case scenario, you could get the wrong diagnosis and treatment.
Personality and communication
Is your GP rigid or flexible? Are they paternalistic, as in “Do as I say” or more about you – “What would you like to do?”
Does your GP explain difficult terms, and answer your questions to your satisfaction? Are they patient with you? Do they encourage you to take on responsibility and autonomy in your health management?
It depends on your personality and communication style as to whether you’ll be able to work together towards your health goals.
Another important issue is when GPs (and other doctors) are within earshot of others. Your GP should never discuss your health with anyone else without your permission. A good doctor never forgets about confidentiality, and the circumstances where this trust can be broken are extremely rare.
Continuity of care
Ideally, you will have just one GP, so they will know you and your issues and be able to manage you better than someone who only sees you occasionally. However, given that many GPs work part-time, and in any case all will take time off at some point, try to stick to a maximum of two GPs in the same practice. Not only will they be able to share your health record, they can have more of a team approach.
Getting a second opinion
If your regular GP seems to have hit a roadblock with managing your health, or you just don’t gel due to personality differences, you’ve a right to a second opinion. This could be within the same practice or in a different one. A fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective can make a big difference if progress has stalled. Some people feel understandably guilty if they move to another doctor, but that is unfounded.
Asking for assistance
Apart from medical advice and treatment, what about navigating the health system? Only about a quarter of people surveyed by the ABS found it easy to navigate the health system, with increasing difficulty for people experiencing psychological distress. People may need help with booking an outpatient appointment or investigation, understanding a treatment plan, or working through options. Again, ask your GP if you need help.
Mental health issues
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that during 2015-16, the number of people attending with mental health conditions was on the rise; a third attending with depression. And with an estimated four million Australians experiencing a common mental health condition in 2015, these statistics show how seriousness of mental healthcare.
There are many facets to a successful mental health consultation.
In brief, I’d recommend booking a long appointment, and if possible, that a partner/friend/relative accompanies you. In my experience, that gives the health consumer emotional assurance, as well as the support person being an advocate. In addition, more objective information can be provided this way, as sometimes someone with mental health issues may be too distressed or lacking in full insight to give a full explanation of symptoms.
Your health is important and should be top priority for your doctor too. Look for a doctor with good communication skills, empathy and a collaborative approach that empowers you.
@AliceLamWriter #AliceLamWriter #generalpractice #healthcare #communication #patientexperience #patientempowerment
It's been seven months since I last listened to someone's chest, helped someone get through their depression, or saw a mother with her new baby for a check-up.
But I'm still listening to people's hearts.
Writing has always been part of my life. Stories - yours or mine - deserve to be shared.
In addition to fiction, I've also been writing freelance health & medical pieces, which gives me the best of both worlds. I'm building up a client base gradually, so if you know someone who needs a doctor with a passion for communication, please ask them to contact me through the Contact Me form or to head on over to my Freelance Writing Services page.
Thank you for reading!
Dr Alice Lam
According to Beyond Blue, one in five Australians experience a mental health condition over one year, and nearly one in two will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime.
If you or someone you know needs help, please talk to someone you trust or go and see your GP. There is also a relatively new portal produced by the Australian Government which helps consumers find support, from 24/7 organisations like Lifeline and Kids Helpline, websites like Beyond Blue, to mental health learning modules online, and useful apps. Check out https://headtohealth.gov.au
Dr Alice Lam