Partner with Your Doctor to Find a Solution
Patients sometimes get frustrated in trying to find a solution to their afib. They may feel like their doctor doesn’t really understand what they are going through. They just want to get afib over and done with while their doctor may want to keep trying various medications.
This is especially true for those being treated by general practitioners, family physicians, and geriatricians, and sometimes by general cardiologists. Thus, one of the first steps is often to be seen by someone who specializes in afib. This could be an electrophysiologist (EP), a cardiologist with extra years of training in the heart’s electrical system. It could also be a surgeon who does afib procedures.
Challenges Afib Patients May Have
We have heard so many stories of what patients have gone through to find their solution for afib. But, unfortunately, some patients have told us that their doctor wants to continue with the same old routine that isn’t working. Sometimes, it may be that the doctor doesn’t know of anything else to try. It may be because the doctor doesn’t understand what the patient is going through with afib.
One patient told us, “You can’t imagine how frustrating it is when your doctor says, ‘On a scale of things you need to worry about, this one is way down here,’ and puts his hand close to the floor as you’re thinking that it’s obvious that he doesn’t have afib or he would know how it takes control of your life.” Minimizing what the patient is going through creates a trust issue between the doctor and patient.
Many doctors still perceive afib to be benign, so communicating what afib is doing to you may help. In addition, sharing the physical, emotional, and financial toll it is taking on you may help find the right solution for you.
Some patients have said that their doctors didn’t know anything about procedures. Others said that when they suggested a procedure, their doctor shot it down immediately, saying, “That procedure doesn’t work.” Maybe those doctors were ill-informed, or perhaps they only wanted to do things that they could do in their practice. But, that shouldn’t get in the way of getting the solution we need.
In some cases, patients and their doctors are just coming from different places. For example, in our experience with the afib community, about half prefer medications (and want nothing to do with procedures), and half want procedures (and want nothing to do with medications). Often, a doctor wants to exhaust all of the less-invasive options first. Trying multiple medications with no results (and possible side effects) simply makes no sense to the patient. This kind of mismatch in preferences needs to be discussed. Sometimes, the type of doctor treating you and their familiarity with afib treatments can make a difference, too.
Sometimes the issue is needing to get a referral to a specialist who does a procedure. For example, one patient who wanted to get referred for a particular procedure mentioned having a running buddy that was a doctor. He practiced his “pitch” to his doctor for a referral with his running buddy. If you’re trying to get a referral, consider practicing what you would say to your doctor with someone who can help you refine it.
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Questions When Considering Procedures
If you are referred for a catheter ablation or a surgical ablation, spend time discussing the procedure with the electrophysiologist or surgeon and get all of your questions answered.
Here are some questions you may wish to have answers to before deciding whether to have a procedure and whether this is the best procedure and doctor for you:
- What training and background does the doctor have?
- How did the doctor learn the specific procedure, where did the doctor learn it, and who did the doctor learn it from?
- Why did the doctor choose to do this particular procedure and use this specific device?
- What makes this procedure best for solving my problem?
- What is the history of the device and procedure? What are the results with my afib type?
- How many of these procedures has this doctor done overall and in the past year? How many of these procedures has the hospital or center done in the past year?
- What are the doctor’s success and complication rates with this specific procedure for my afib type?
- Does this doctor understand how afib affects me and inspire my confidence for solving my problem?
Other Things to Consider
When EPs or surgeons are involved in developing a device, that doesn’t make them or the device bad (contrary to what you may read on the Internet).
Innovation occurs when those closest to the problem work with technologists (engineers and software developers) to devise a solution that then gets tested in the field to determine how well it solves the problem. Those involved in the technology and solution should be rewarded for developing and validating solutions for us.
In medicine, many of the studies that advance the treatment frontiers involve partnerships between doctors and technologists at companies. These partnerships are a good thing. How else will we get innovative new technology solutions that save our lives?
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