Where do you get medical advice?

By Mark Jaben

I always marvel at people that tell me they haven’t been to a doctor in 25 years. Not engaging the health care system is a great strategy if you can get by with it. But then, they are seeing me, so what does that say.


People often get advice from trusted sources, like a neighbor, a friend, a family member or the Internet. These can all be good sources of information, but be careful on the Internet. There are viruses and worms and all kinds of unscrupulous parasites out there.

The problem with all this advice is applying someone else’s experience to you. Despite the computer revolution, medicine is not necessarily a logical science. The art comes in applying all this knowledge and experience to your individual situation.

If there is a 99 percent chance for a cure with a certain treatment, that is very reassuring. However, you will not be cured 99 percent of the way. Either you will be cured, or you will not be cured. If you are the 1 out of a 100 who fails the treatment, then you got 0 percent benefit.

In medicine, an expected result of 95 percent is considered very good, meaning there will be five of you unlucky people out of the 100 who saw the doctor for your particular problem.

There are few treatments that reach this level of effectiveness. Your doctor’s job is to become familiar with your situation, including your pre-existing problems and issues. The next step is to make a diagnosis, so the doctor has a good idea what’s going on, which is not the easiest task. Then, the doctor can decide if a particular treatment has a good chance of doing what it is capable of doing for your problem.

It is then your responsibility to follow this advice. If you don’t buy the doctor’s advice, you must tell them right then and there. If you don’t understand the advice, you must ask right then and there. If it is not working in the time frame your doctor suggested, or if things get worse, you must let them know. Usually, your doctor has several ideas about how to approach your particular problem, and if plan A doesn’t work, then plan B or C might. But if you don’t speak up, your doctor will never know.

That’s a whole day’s work right there, crammed into that always too brief visit. But then there seems to be more and more people needing advice and help each day — my, there’s another column right there.

Use your trusted sources as a starting point in your search for health, but be wary that just because Aunt Sue had the same symptoms and she got better with Acme Ground Hog Grease, it may not be so for you.

So what’s a person to do?

1) Listen to the advice, say to yourself: “Hmmm ...”. Go to the doctor.

2) If you choose Aunt Sue’s remedy and get well, use your Internet connection to play poker, and make sure to bring her any road k.

3) If you choose to try Aunt Sue’s remedy, and after a few days you are still alive but don’t feel better, go to the doctor.

4) Once you see your doctor, make sure you understand and agree with the plan, including when you should see the doctor again and under what conditions you should return sooner.

(Mark Jaben is a physician with Haywood Emergency Physicians and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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