Doctors are often viewed as all-knowing figures who know what’s best for your health, however, you know your body better than anyone. If something feels off, you’re the only one who can detect this. Being a health advocate for yourself doesn’t have to be confrontational with your doctor. It’s about being prepared so you can get the best treatment possible.
In order to be your own health advocate, here are a few key rules to follow:
Keep a journal of your health concerns
If you notice you’re getting more headaches than normal or you’re having unusual discomfort in your stomach, the power of deduction can be a useful tactic. If you’re ever feeling physically uneasy, it’s a good idea to track any potential lifestyle causes in a journal. Mark down what you ate that day, what you did, and any medications you took. You can start to subtract things out of your daily routine to see if they’re contributing to your health concern. Keeping a journal creates a visual to help narrow down the potential causes of your discomfort and changes your body may be experiencing.
Do your own research
One of the best ways you can be your own health advocate is by conducting your own research. Health care providers go through years of education and experience in order to become experts in the field, something that many of us are unable to do. However, learning more about your symptoms and possible conditions can help give you a base knowledge of treatment plan options and allow you to ask the right questions when speaking to your doctor. Sadly, common conditions, like endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can go undetected for many years because women don’t realize these aren’t normal period symptoms. When doing research, be sure to look on trusted sites, like Mayo Clinic, for resources.
Ask questions for clarification
Medical jargon can be confusing when speaking to a healthcare provider. Do you fully understand what they’re explaining? If not, it’s important to ask for clarification. Ask as many questions you need until you feel you have a grasp on the concern at hand. Discussing your concerns can build trust and ensure better communication between yourself and your provider. No one wants to sound pushy or feel stupid for not understanding. However, asking questions will allow you to make more informed decisions about your body. If you’re worried you may forget to ask certain questions, be sure to write them down beforehand and bring them to your appointment.
Be knowledgeable about your options
If you don’t have health insurance or you live in a rural area where it’s hard to easily seek medical assistance, there are plenty of ways you can still take control of your health. Telemedicine services allow you to speak to a doctor online to receive medical advice and prescriptions. Plus, many don’t even require insurance. Today, you can do anything from using an at-home kit to check food sensitivity to ordering oral contraceptives online straight to your door. Don’t let lack of accessibility keep you from owning your health.
Keep medical documentation organized
Knowing your medical history is crucial as it allows doctors to provide the best care. Keep medical paperwork given by doctors and file them accordingly, such as vaccinations and any treatments you’ve received. The more organized you are, the easier time you’ll have when referencing your medical history. It may be difficult to know where to begin, but there are easy ways to get organized fast.
Review medical bills for any mistakes
Did you know that 8 out of 10 medical bills contain errors? This can mean duplicate charges, inaccurate patient information, incorrect quantity of medications, and so on and so forth. Without properly educating yourself on what to look for, it can be hard to spot these common errors. Be sure to double-check your medical bills and keep them on file for proof when needed.
Don’t be afraid of getting a second opinion
In some cases, getting a second opinion is a good decision. In instances when you’re prescribed antibiotics for strep throat or given a brace for a simple sprain, a second opinion probably isn’t necessary. However, there are good reasons to get a second opinion, such as if a proposed treatment option feels risky or if your diagnosis is complex. It can be scary to seek out another doctor for their opinion, especially when you don’t know what’s best for your situation. Multiple opinions can give you more control over your treatment options and be potentially life-saving.