What’s different if I have more than one condition?
In a word – everything. The unfortunate truth is that;
According to a CDC study, half or more of all adults with a chronic condition have more than one. Patients with more than one condition are often referred to as ‘medically complex’.
Our prevailing medical practice model is driven by different specialists who focus on single conditions in isolation, and ‘treat the condition’.
The shortest, most effective, and most efficient path to address multiple chronic conditions and achieve your overall treatment goal (presumably curing all possible conditions and mitigating those remaining) requires a plan that ‘treats the patient’ and considers all current conditions as well as your personal preferences in terms of treatment options, rather than treating individual conditions.
Since many medications have different effects on different people, the combination of multiple medications from different physicians for multiple conditions results in an even more difficult prediction for a positive outcome. It’s all too common for medically complex patients to suffer more from the negative effects (and cross effects) of their medications than from the underlying conditions. Examples abound of patients with multiple medications complaining of little relief compounded by fatigue, non-specific pain, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms experiencing significant benefit when a physician takes the time to do a thorough review of their full profile and stops one, some, most, or all of the medications.
What you can do when speaking to your multiple providers:
If one is willing and accessible, clearly designate one physician as your care coordinator and ensure that all other providers coordinate their care through them.
Always make sure all providers have your lists of past and current conditions, medications, allergies, and OTC meds/diet/supplements that you’re taking. Ideally, you’ll have one copy of ‘the truth’ for these lists in your Personal Health record and can share that with all providers. If these lists are kept in each provider’s separate EMR/EHR or paper records, ask to review them personally and update/correct them as needed.
Seriously consider treatment options that have a low risk of cross-reactivity or negative side effects. For example, choosing a lifestyle change over a medication has good chance of having a positive therapeutic impact and a much, much lower risk of negative side effects for almost all medically complex patients. If medication is your chosen option, specifically seek those with a low incidence of cross reactivity based on other patients with the same combination of conditions/medications as yours.
Remember: We coach, support, educate, and empower. We illuminate options you may not have known you had. But we don't decide what's right for you in your unique circumstances; only you can do that. And we don't provide medical, financial, or legal advice; nor do we replace the valuable counsel of those who do.