While most individuals typically see their family physician once a year for their annual check-up, there are also a large number of Canadians that will need to make recurring visits to their doctor’s office as a result of having complex and multifactorial health conditions. While many health conditions, such as the common cold or flu are easily treatable, there are others that don’t have a single genetic cause, therefore oftentimes making them difficult to diagnose and treat, leaving the patient feeling vulnerable and frustrated – and, as a result, the patient can sometimes develop mood and mental health related changes, and even social isolation – something that hasn’t been uncommon during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Physicians spend a significant amount of time caring for patients who are living with chronic health problems – including but not limited to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic pain disorders such as fibromyalgia. These complex and multifactorial health conditions can affect individuals of all ages, with more than half of Canadian adults aged 65 and older being diagnosed with at least three or more chronic/ongoing medical problems. When caring for patients who are identified as having a multifactorial condition, it’s important to pay attention to a number of factors – including socioeconomic elements as well as the medical complexity – i.e. past medical history, the current level of pain that the patient may be experiencing, and the symptoms that are involved.
Prescribing medications to patients living with numerous health problems is much more difficult and intricate than in those who require simple treatment for something like influenza or skin lacerations. For example, a medication that may be beneficial in treating one ailment may in fact wind up making other ailments worse. If you are a patient living with a complex and multifactorial health condition, it is always important to have a sit-down discussion with your physician to talk about your treatment plan as it is a decision-making process that requires a trusting relationship between the doctor and patient. Your physician is able to answer any questions that you may have about your diagnosis and treatment plan, and remember, no question is ever considered to be a bad question.
When dealing with chronic illness it is important to stay informed, and especially important to your physician that they address any concerns and inquisitions you may have. If you are concerned about a medication that you have been prescribed, this is something you are also urged to talk about with your physician or pharmacist, but know that the benefits usually often outweigh any risks involved. You should also let your doctor or pharmacist know of any side effects you may be experiencing as a result of a prescribed medication and whether or not the prescribed treatment is or is not working.