7 Ways to Effectively Advocate for Your Health

Have you ever gone to the doctor, determined to get answers about worrisome symptoms you’ve been experiencing? Only to be told, “that’s common in people your age,” or, “I’m sure it’s nothing“? You can feel frustrated when dismissed by your doctor, especially when you have real concerns about your health. The great news is that you could be only seven steps away from preparing yourself properly to effectively advocate for your health.

1. Ask questions

Your doctor may be on a tight schedule, but will typically take the time to answer any questions you have.

If you don’t ask questions about the information they provide, they will likely assume you understand and they can move on to the next patient.

However, keep this next tip in mind if you intend on asking questions during your appointment. To effectively advocate for your health, write them down and bring with you so you don’t forget in the moment.

2. Find the right doctor for you

If your concerns are repeatedly dismissed or you don’t feel comfortable asking questions, your doctor might not be the right fit for you.

Ask friends or relatives for recommendations, and/or use sites like Healthgrades and Vitals to read reviews on various providers in your area.

Call your clinic and let them know exactly what you’re looking for in a provider.

Asking another trusted medical provider is also a great way to find the doctor that is right for you.

3. Bring in your medical records

This is especially helpful if you’re seeing a new provider that may not know your health history.

Bringing in your records ensures the doctor has access to your medical history. You also show preparedness and seriousness to your new doctor, two points often overlooked.

Obtaining your records

It is important to realize that each provider you encounter must provide you with copies of your medical records.

Simply contact the medical records department of their office to initiate the request. There may be a small, reasonable fee depending on the reason for your request. Additionally, healthcare privacy laws may mandate verification of your identity.

If you do not want to spend time and possibly money requesting medical records, the new provider can contact your old doctors and have them sent directly.

The trade-off is that you will not have a separate personal copy to help you advocate for your health.

4. Ask for information in a different way

Request your appointment’s notes in writing to avoid any misunderstandings. This gives you time to process and research on your own, if necessary.

See #7 for further recommendations.

In the event that you do not fully understand the information provided, you can ask for a return appointment to bring a trusted family member or friend.

Equally important, should there be a language barrier, you are entitled under law to a licensed translator who is trained on medical terminology.

This works best if you notify the provider a few days prior to your appointment.

5. Do some research

If you’re concerned about having a specific condition, here’s a simple place to start. Research whether a lab test can diagnose it.

Just be aware of this technique and its impact on you. If you know doing research will make you more worried, you might want to skip it.

Otherwise, you can ask for the test to ease your mind.

6. Ask for a second opinion

Diagnostic errors are possible. So are different treatment approaches to a single person’s medical condition.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.

Most skilled providers are heartened, and not insulted, by such requests.

This is especially advised when a recommendation is made for a major surgery or the diagnosis has significant long-term implications.

7. Ask for a follow-up plan

Good questions to ask are, “When should I be seen again if this doesn’t resolve on its own?” or, “At what point would this become more concerning?”

This lets your doctor know you’re serious about taking care of your health. It also gives you a concrete plan for the next steps.

In conclusion, on effectively being an advocate for your health..

Going to the doctor can be nerve-racking. But when you prepare to advocate effectively for yourself, you can begin to see better results and get more comfortable interacting with your provider.

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