Because Mexican physicians in private practice keep few notes on their patients it places the burden on you — the patient — to remember what was said about a diagnosis, what testing was done and if any treatment was recommended.
Another common, but certainly not universal problem, is a tendency to prescribe more medication than physicians in the north. Mexican pharmaceutical companies produce far more combination drugs than in the U.S. and keeping track of the dazzling variety of names for the same drug is daunting at best.
Finally, a common challenge for many patients is understanding what the physician is thinking and why.
These shortcomings place a burden on you, the patient, to adapt or suffer the consequences. The following are ways to improve the quality of medical care you receive here and in the north.
• Ask those you know and trust to recommend a physician they trust.
• Prepare for your appointment by making notes about your problem. When did it begin? Has it been treated in the past? Are you taking any medications for this complaint or for any other reason? If you have medical records from past treatment take them to your appointment.
• Consider taking a friend, family member or patient advocate with you to serve as note-taker during the appointment.
• When the physician offers a diagnosis make sure you understand her or his reasoning.
• When medications are prescribed ask what each medication is for and ask about common side effects. If medications are particularly expensive or combine more than one drug, question the physician about less expensive, non-combination formulations.
• If diagnostic tests are ordered make sure you know what they are for and why they are needed.
After you leave your appointment it is a good idea to compare what you heard and understood with whoever accompanied you. Keep those notes on hand and accessible. They may be the only records of your care that day.
Do you have a question related to obtaining health care in Mexico? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and Deborah will do her best to answer it for you.
Deborah Bickel lives in San Miguel de Allende and is the founder and principal of Be Well San Miguel patient advocacy services. She is an international health worker with a master’s degree in public health from the University of California at Berkeley and is a graduate of the Stanford University Primary Care Associate program. She has practiced medicine in the San Francisco Bay Area, Latin America and Africa.