August 2, 2022

Become Your Own Healthcare Advocate

Become Your Own Healthcare Advocate With These Important Moves

- Janice Russell

Learning to advocate for yourself when dealing with health issues is extremely important. Even if your doctor visit is just for a routine checkup, it’s important to have the confidence and knowledge to speak up about any concerns or general questions you may have. Many individuals find it challenging to do this, either because they don’t want to question their healthcare provider’s expertise or because they feel they don’t understand enough about the medical field to make informed decisions on their own behalf. You can get more informed by keeping up with the posts at SMA.org, which cover everything from the benefits of telehealth appointments to self-care tips for kids; you can also take free online courses on various medical-related topics.

 Here are a few ways you can become your own best health advocate:

Listen and Record
No matter what you’re visiting the doctor for, it’s important to learn how to carefully listen to their input. Many appointments cover multi-faceted topics or include directions on how to change your lifestyle over the course of several weeks or months, so it’s crucial that you pay close attention and take notes. This will help you remember your conversation so you can stay on track, and it will also come in handy for your follow-up visit; you might even ask a friend, loved one, or volunteer to help with the note-taking process. If you’d rather record the visit on your phone, make sure it’s okay with your doctor/nurse beforehand. Some healthcare providers offer an app that allows you to keep up with your own medical chart, including appointment information, prescriptions, and diagnoses; ask your doctor if they have such an app.

Keep Track of All Your Important Documents
In addition to any medical documents you have at home, it’s important to keep your medication list up to date and include not only prescription medicines but also over the counter medicines, herbs, supplements, and topical medications. Include not just the name of these medicines but also the strength and dosage schedule for each of them. All providers need to know of diagnosed allergies and any history of side effects of medications you have experienced.

Whether you need to get the notes from your visit organized or just put all of your important medical documents in one place, it’s crucial to utilize the right tools in order to keep them safe and accessible. Using a resource like a Word to PDF converter will allow you to securely change your document to a shareable file, which will help you keep your loved ones, doctors, or the executors of your estate informed in the event of a major health issue. You can also keep invoices, insurance information, and a copy of your ID on file just so they’re easy to find when you need them.

Get to Know Your Rights and Coverage
When gathering your insurance policy info, it’s a good idea to go over it again and make sure you understand exactly what it covers. Being an advocate for your own health means feeling confident in your rights and knowing how you’re protected, so go through each section of your policy and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions of your health insurance company's customer support personnel. Most insurance companies allow you to look at itemized claims and other info from doctor’s visits from the preceding year on their website, so keep an eye on these and speak to someone immediately if you find an error.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Put Your Foot Down
Knowing your rights is about more than understanding your health insurance coverage; it also applies to being able to stand up for yourself when you feel your healthcare provider isn’t listening, or when you don’t agree with their diagnosis. It’s perfectly okay to get a second opinion in many cases, to speak up about a difference of opinion, or to even leave an appointment if you feel the provider isn’t taking your concerns seriously.

Becoming your own advocate takes a bit of self-confidence, but once you learn to take a stand for your health care, it does get easier. Get organized, use the technology available to you, and keep your most trusted loved ones informed about important visits so they can help when you need it.

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