Following doctors orders

Your doctor might call them recommendations or advice. You know those words during a routine checkup: “I’d like to see you lose a little weight,” or “Be sure to let me know if you’re having any trouble with this medication.”

Even though they sound like a friendly reminder, your doctor means business when making recommendations like these.

Most doctors would agree—and hope—that their orders should be taken seriously all of the time. But here are three types of orders they’re going to insist you take seriously, because your life may depend on it:

  1. Medication safety
  2. Follow up visits
  3. Reinforcing good habits

Medication safety margin

Your doctor is trusting you to take your prescription medicines according to directions. When you read the information that comes with a medication (a good thing to do with any new medication), you’ll see that there are precise directions for taking the medication. Your doctor should go over with you how frequently you should take it, what time of day you should take it, and any restrictions that go along with taking it.

For many medications, your doctor may specify how many days or weeks you should be taking it. Don’t assume that if the symptoms have gone away that it’s OK to stop taking the medicine. Follow the doctor’s orders. And let the doctor know if you have any questions or problems with the medication.

Don’t miss your follow up visit

When your doctor schedules you for a follow up visit, there is most likely a sound medical reason for it. Don’t play doctor yourself and assume that if you’re feeling better that the visit is unnecessary.

Doctors know the signs of when a condition is improving. A follow up visit (or even a series of follow up visits) may be vital in making sure you have no hidden complications or that the initial diagnosis was the correct one and nothing further is going on.

Good habits and the “I know” syndrome

When the doctor says, “You need to stop smoking,” our initial response is “I know.” While doctors will never be substitutes for our mothers, they do know a thing or two about what keeps people healthy and safe.

Your doctor’s style might be to make those suggestions sound friendly and nonthreatening, but behind those words is a lot of experience seeing what happens when people don’t follow a healthy lifestyle.

Better than an “I know,” response, ask your doctor for advice on how to take meaningful steps toward that goal. You should be able to count on your doctor to be in your court and help you achieve that goal.

Last reviewed: 
June 2017

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