You have to assume responsibility for steering your healthcare.
When you’re ill, you might be at your worst. And that’s exactly when you need to be at your best, to achieve the best healthcare for your situation. No matter how badly you feel, you have to assume responsibility for steering your care.
You know your body best. You know when you feel right; you know when you don’t. But you probably don’t know why you feel off, which is why you’re seeing your doctor in the first place.
Help your doctor help you; know how to work with your doctor. Don’t be a pest; be an advocate. And know the difference.
If you feel overwhelmed by your conversation with your doctor, say so. Always state you concerns. Ask for clarity when you don’t understand. It’s okay to say you feel a certain course of treatment will make your problem worse. Your visit with your doctor is also an interview, your chance to be an empowered healthcare consumer, to trust your own instinct.
Become educated about your illness. Do your homework. Find excellent, reputable sources of information. Ask questions about your doctor’s solution if it doesn’t seem to back up what you know. It’s also okay to propose your own solution – but only if you’ve done that homework – especially if you want input for any other doctors (such as specialists) you may be seeing. A second opinion for a serious illness is always a good idea, if for nothing else than to find out about all of your options. A consensus among doctors is even better.
Know when the care for your body, the physical nature of healthcare, isn’t enough. Know when being chronically sick requires you to treat the emotional toll of being sick. Don’t be embarrassed if you think you need emotional help too. Depression is common in many people who have chronic physical illnesses. Ask for help!
Get copies of your medical records from all of your healthcare providers. Keep a list of your medications. Put all of that information in a safe place, preferably an electronic health record (EHR) that you can share with your healthcare providers.
You have a right to be a partner in your healthcare; in fact, you have a duty to yourself and those who count on you to be a partner in your healthcare. Being your own patient advocate helps you get better care, safer care, and more satisfaction. You increase your confidence. You learn to take responsibility for your healthcare, for yourself, for your own life.
If you don’t, who will?
February 24, 2020
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA