Intensivists

25 06 2010

When we’re in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), either as a patient or as the caregiver of a loved one, we’re pretty scared and looking for all the help we can get.

Next time you find yourself headed to an ICU, ask for the Intensivist, or critical care specialist for the unit.

Intensivists are big picture people who review all available information and then develop a diagnosis and course of treatment for the critically ill patient. The plan they devise for the patient may change daily or hourly, because they stay on top of details and adjust the course as new information emerges—an essential element of high quality care.

Intensivists relish thinking outside the box, and their methods work. The survival rate of patients with an Intensivist running the ICU is greater than for those in an ICU without one.

Though qualifications and experience levels vary, these specialists are game-changers and often are the difference between successful and unsuccessful outcomes for critically ill patients.

An Intensivist gets information from many sources, including the patient and  the caregiver. If he or she starts asking you questions, don’t leave out even the smallest details. This is NOT the time to keep secrets.  You might be asked if your loved one has a substance abuse problem, or if the patient is supplemented with concoctions not on the “official list of medications.”  Share everything you know, as it’s impossible to say what might have bearing on the diagnosis and treatment of the patient.

An Intensivist usually has a specific time when he or she makes rounds. If you can manage to be there during that time, it’ll help you become part of the decision-making team.

Some tips for surviving the ICU:

  • Try not to be afraid.  The sights and sounds in the ICU are intense.
  • Use hand sanitizer or soap and water every time you enter and exit the area.
  • Don’t be afraid to touch and talk to your loved one.  And watch what you say, they can hear you.
  • Be considerate of the privacy of others, and obey the rules.
  • Ask questions of your doctors and nurses.  They have a lot of information to offer.
  • Rest when you can. You will be advised if you should NOT go home.  Keep a spare change of clothes and toiletries, if the circumstance warrants it.  Things can change quickly when someone is in ICU

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Medical Info on the Internet. Reliable?

14 06 2010

When we or our loved ones are diagnosed with a condition, many of us turn to the Internet for information.

Last year, 61 % of Americans used the Internet to research health topics.

The question is, how do we know if the medical information we find online is worth the time spent looking it up?

The National Library of Medicine has a 16 minute tutorial in both English and Spanish that helps users distinguish between reputable sites and those that may not be credible.

When faced with a potentially catastrophic diagnosis, we want to believe the hopeful sites that promise a cure, no matter who the authors may be, but we’re better served in the end by paying attention to details that tell us if a website is trustworthy.

Following are some things to note when determining a site’s credibility:

  • Who sponsors the website and are they easy to identify?
  • Is the sponsor’s contact information easy to find?
  • Who are the sites’ authors?
  • Who reviews the text?
  • Is it easy to determine when something was written?
  • Is there a privacy policy?
  • Does the information sound too good to be true?

The Internet can provide real assistance to us as we work to become team members in our own health care.

One benefit to having access to new technology is we can arrive at our doctor’s office better prepared for the visit. Given that doctor/patient visits last on average only eight to10 minutes, this is good news.

The more we understand walking in the door, the more time we’ll have to get the information that only comes from our healthcare professionals.

Bottom line is, we shouldn’t believe everything we read on the Internet, but if we become discerning in our online research, we’ll be more effective health advocates for ourselves and those we love.

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Patients’ Rights

10 08 2007

Although no parent can bear to think of their child being terminally ill, we know it does happen. When it happens, each of us wants the right to use any drug available to save our child.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided that a terminally ill patient does not have a constitutional right to experimental drugs, even if those drugs could potentially save that patient.

In a dissent written by Judge Judith W. Rogers, she said that courts have established the right “to marry, to fornicate, to have children, to control the education and upbringing of children, to perform varied sexual acts in private, and to control one’s own body even if it results in one’s own death or the death of a fetus…but the right to try to save one’s life is left out in the cold despite its textual anchor in the right to life.”

Parents of terminally ill children should have access to experimental drugs that have undergone preliminary safety testing but are not yet FDA-approved. Period.