April 9, 2014

How Much Knowledge Is the Right Amount?

As a person with type 2 diabetes, I have always questioned this. This is the second blog I have read about this and I cannot find the first blog as the site no longer exists. Therefore, it was with great interest when I read this and made me determined not to let this one get away.

I don't know if I agree with the title Jessie Gruman used, but I definitely agree with most of what she wrote. She is a little overly optimistic about most professional health care stakeholders. She says they believe that the more we patients and caregivers know about our health and diseases, the better our outcomes will be – and at a lower cost!

I could agree if I had not met so many doctors that believe they are all the patient needs and will not discuss treatment plans with their patients and instead give out orders that they expect the patients to follow and not ask questions. These doctors do more to discredit their profession than anything else – not the mistakes they make, the misdiagnoses, the harm they cause patients, and their own ineptitude.

Many patients will do their best to learn and follow doctors that talk with and not at them, help them by providing guidance, and even giving them reliable sources of information on the internet. Those doctors that work with the patient and treat them with respect will generally have patients that will succeed to some degree in applying the best of self-care.

I used the term 'some degree' because there are too many variables and it is very difficult to know if the patient is operating on information overload or lack of quality information. Doctors can misjudge how much we know about our illness or disease. Included is medicine that is foreign to us and we are not privy to much of the processes. However, the doctors are not alone in their overestimation of our knowledge. Many patients and caregivers overestimate their knowledge.

This creates a crossroad for us as patients or caregivers. How much information do we need to better manage our diabetes? I have not had type 2 diabetes for over 10 years and I am still learning. I would have thought that with all the research I do every week, I would have been able to answer more questions. Yet, I had to ask my endo a couple of questions at my last appointment and was totally surprised by the answers. Not even something that I would have thought off and it certainly not what I expected. It made sense after I thought about it.

Even though I understand diabetes better that some of my friends, I still have a lot to learn. Unfortunately, there are so many variables and each can cause different effects and create different outcome. Will I give up – not a chance, but when will I know enough? This is my biggest puzzle and I will probably continue to learn.

All of us need to avoid the common assumption many patients make of “more is better” and realize that often less is better. Still we should learn as much as we want to learn or are capable of learning. We need to know when to question our doctors and when to let them lead.

Is our health care for diabetes dependent on us having some unspecified amount of knowledge that our personal shortcoming means our outcomes will probably be worse? And where does this leave those of us who, out of curiosity or concern, respond to calls for us to become better informed patients? Answer the last two questions to help yourselves.

No comments: